CONCISENESS

In professional writing, being direct is important, because in many cases, ‘time is money’, and readers want to know if a document answers their question or addresses their need without having to analyse it in detail. Some writers believe that by including as many details as possible and repeating information, they become clearer. However, by trying to ‘drill in’ information, they may draw attention away from the main message and confuse the reader instead. In fact, by stating the point clearly and directly at strategic points in a document, one has a better chance of getting their intended meaning across.

One can make their writing concise by avoiding long, crowded and wordy sentences, especially if they are in succession. If you write one or two long sentences, make sure the next sentence is short to break the density. Besides, following the below mentioned tips will help for a clear and concise writing.

1. Favour the active voice where possible. Passive sentences are wordier, and can be confusing if they do not reveal the agent of an action.

Wordy: The project was finished by the workers before the deadline was reached.

Revised: The workers finished the project before the deadline.

2. Avoid ‘there is/are’ at the beginning of sentences. In many cases, we overuse these words, even when they are unnecessary.

Wordy: There are several conclusions that we can draw from these results.

Revised: We can draw several conclusions from these results.

3. Use modals (may, might, could, should, must) where possible. Some believe that modals are informal; however, this is not true. Modals, in fact, modify verbs and have a clear place in language.

Wordy: It is possible that the product will be funded.

Revised: The product may be funded.

4. Use verbs instead of nouns where possible. Besides making sentences concise, verbs are action oriented, and give the writing a more direct tone.

Wordy: A tool box is not a requirement for this procedure.

Revised: This procedure does not require a tool box.

5. Avoid weak verbs. Some verbs, instead of signalling action, depend on a noun to support them. In many cases, such verbs can be replaced by other verbs, which do not require a noun, such as ‘take’, ‘make’, ‘do’, ‘give’, etc.

Wordy: This investigation serves to show the findings of the experiment.

Revised: This investigation shows the findings of the experiment.

6. Use punctuation strategically. If your paragraph is getting cluttered with too many words or long sentences, it is often possible to use punctuation to cut down on words.

Wordy: There are many reasons for climatic change, which include toxic pollution, deforestation and volcanic activity.

Revised: There are many reasons for climatic change: toxic pollution, deforestation and volcanic activity.

7. Avoid wordy clichés. Some phrases are so commonly used in spoken English that they have become almost unconscious. Writing, nevertheless, gives the opportunity to become more conscious of how language is used, and thus allows for the elimination of repetitive material. Here is a list of such clichés.

Common Wordy Clichés

Wordy Concise
a majority of many (or number)
a number of some (or number)
subsequent to after
due to the fact that because
have the capability/ability to can
in the event that if
so as to, in order to to
with regard to about
give a summary of summarize
make an assumption about assume
come to the conclusion that conclude
take action act
make a decision decide
make a proposal about propose
end result result
cancel out cancel
enter into enter
completely eliminate eliminate
at this point in time now
there can be little doubt definitely, certainly
in the absence of without
higher in comparison with higher than

The Revising Process

The process of revising involves a series of steps, basically following the ARRR (adding, rearranging, removing, and replacing) method. In each step, the writer considers a set of questions from general to specific concerns:

  • Is the document complete?
  • Is all necessary information included?
  • Is the question answered adequately that you had set out to answer?
  • Is the hypothesis tested?
  • Have readers understood your main points and their pertinence?
  • Is the overall look of the document attractive and compelling?

After checking of the organisation of the document, ordering the given information and reorganising paragraphs is important. In addition to the logical sequencing of information, a conventional sequencing, depending on the type of document that you are writing is also important. A thorough grammar check is also important at this step. Check all paragraphs for unity and cohesion. Also, check if you have included all relevant information.

Finally, proofread the entire document for word choice, punctuation, spelling grammar and logical flow. Avoid any unnecessary repetition or wordiness for a clear, correct and concise document.