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.
Be a Ruthless Editor
When you have completed your work, re-read it thoroughly. Are any sentences repeated? Think of your essay as a house: each sentence represents one brick and adds to your overall argument. There is no reason to waste time saying the same thing in different ways.
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 say:
First and foremost, it is vital to consider the hopes and dreams of each and every child.
It would make more sense to edit this down to:
First, it is vital to consider the hopes of every child.
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.
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’.
These words are handy for adding detail (there’s a difference between something being ‘quite bad’ and ‘very bad’, after all). But you should be careful not to overuse them.
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.
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.