• 4-minute read
  • 30th January 2015

The Benefits of Writing Concisely

Learning how to write concisely is vital. In academic writing, for example, writing concisely will gain you marks and help your readers grasp your arguments quickly. Consider these points when editing your work.

1. Look Out for Repetition

When you have completed your work, re-read it thoroughly. Have you repeated any information? If so, does repeating it serve a purpose?

Keep in mind that you usually have a limited number of words to work with in an essay. As such, you need every sentence to add something to your overall argument. There is no reason to waste time saying anything that doesn’t do this, such as repeating the same idea in different ways.

2. Delete Redundant Pairs

Rather than using two words which mean the same thing, choose one. Here are some examples of redundant pairs:

  • Each and every
  • Hopes and dreams
  • First and foremost
  • Always and forever

For example, while you could use the following lengthy sentence:

First and foremost, we must consider the hopes and dreams of each and every child.

It would make more sense to edit this down to:

First, we must consider the hopes of every child.

3. Delete Unnecessary Modifiers

Sometimes a word will already imply its modifier.

Example: Do not regret past events which have already occurred.

Edit: Do not regret past events.

The fact that an event is ‘past’ implies that it has ‘already occurred’, so you do not need to say so again.

4. Leave Out Unnecessary Qualifiers

A qualifier is a word that modifies the adjective or adverb that follows it. Common qualifiers include ‘quite’, ‘very’, ‘rather’ and ‘really’.

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These words are handy for adding detail (there’s a difference between something being ‘quite bad’ and ‘very bad’). But you should be careful not to overuse them.

5. Reduce Prepositional Phrases

Prepositional phrases (often beginning with words like ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘at’, ‘to’ or ‘through’) can make a sentence long and rambling. When editing, try rewriting sentences containing prepositional phrases using as few words as possible.

Example: The reason for the cricket team’s failure to win was that, at the time, they were suffering, through no fault of their own, too many injuries during games.

Edit: The cricket team lost because many players were injured.

6. Replace Phrases with Words

Often, instead of using a phrase, one word will do the trick. For instance, the phrases ‘due to the fact that’, ‘in the light of’ and ‘owing to circumstances’ can all be replaced with ‘because’.

Similarly, phrases such as ‘it is imperative that’ or ‘cannot be avoided’ can be replaced with ‘must’ or ‘should’.

Example: Owing to the fact that Cynthia’s cat has been taken ill, it is imperative that she take it to the vet without further ado.

Edit: Cynthia should take her cat to the vet immediately because it is ill.

Consider Your Audience

If you are writing an academic paper, you may not need to explain who key thinkers in your field are. Sentences such as ‘Bill Gates is the CEO of Microsoft’ are completely redundant if you are writing a paper on the tech market, for example, as you can assume that your readers will know this already.

Summary: How to Write Concisely

Concise writing is usually easier to read. As such, when editing a document, you may want to make it as concise as possible. How you do this will depend on the document, but we have a few tips for writing concisely:

  1. Edit ruthlessly, especially in terms of cutting repetition.
  2. Look out for redundant pairs in your writing. These are terms that contain repetition, like ‘twelve midnight’ or ‘each and every’.
  3. Remove unnecessary modifiers from your writing (i.e. clauses or phrases that do not add any new information to a sentence).
  4. Cut unnecessary qualifying terms, such as ‘quite’, ‘very’ and ‘really’.
  5. Try rewriting prepositional phrases to use fewer words.
  6. Replace phrases with a word (e.g. ‘due to the fact that’ = ‘because’).

And if you need any help checking that your writing is clear and concise, don’t forget to have it proofread. We’re happy to help on that front!

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