Writing concisely is a skill that will help you get your point across without wasting any time. A long message with a lot of information can end up being full of useless words, and a short message doesn’t always contain the most important details.
It takes a bit of practice to get concise writing down, as it isn’t as simple as shortening long sentences or cutting unnecessary words. The first step is understanding what concise writing means and how to do it effectively.
The definition of concise writing:
Concise writing uses the fewest words possible without sacrificing meaning, impact, or clarity.
The definition of concise writing does not mean that you should write as few words as possible. Instead, it means that you need to find the perfect balance between long and short sentences, so your message is still clear while using fewer words than normal.
It’s important to note the difference between concise writing and vague writing. Concise text is not meant to be ambiguous or unclear. It should still have the same basic meaning, but it will take fewer words to say what you want without losing important details.
How to Write Concisely
First, let’s look at what you should cut out. Fortunately, there are lots of things that can be removed just by applying common sense.
When you use passive voice, it usually means that the object is being acted upon instead of doing something or someone else performing an action for it:
“The ball was hit by the boy.” (passive)
“The boy hit the ball.” (active)
There is absolutely no need to use passive voice in the example above as it just wastes words and makes your writing longer.
Let’s look at another example:
“The bicycle was ridden by a group of young people.” (passive)
“A group of young people rode the bicycle.” (active)
Again there is no need to use passive voice.
If you’re unsure whether you should write your sentence in active or passive voice, just ask yourself who performed an action on something. If the answer is “the ball”/ “a group of young people,” use active voice.
Be specific and to the point
Writing concisely means being specific and to the point. The more specific your writing is, the better.
Before you start typing up a storm on what you think is an interesting topic, ask yourself these questions: “What’s my point?”” and “How can I explain this in less words? “. If it takes too much effort to explain something, it might not be the right subject for you.
If you’re still going ahead with your idea but find yourself struggling to explain what is most important about it in less words, then try out the following tip:
First, write your first draft normally. Try to avoid using passive voice or superfluous words.
Then, read it over and see if you can get the main points across in less words.
If you find that you still need to add more information, don’t be afraid to cut out parts of your writing where you’re comfortable doing so. Remember, it’s better to write shorter than longer because nobody wants to read a long essay when they can read a shorter one.
I know this might sound like really basic advice, but it will make your writing more concise and easier to read. When writing an essay or research paper, avoid using the word “do” because it’s unnecessary. For example:
“When I studied in school, I did most of my work myself.” (long)
“When I studied in school, I did most of my own work.” (concise)
Using contractions will also make your writing more personal and friendly.
Cut out unnecessary words and phrases
You might not think so, but many words and phrases can be cut or rephrased to make your writing less wordy.
This is quite a long list, but it will be worth reading through.
“Just” can often be cut out of your writing because it doesn’t add anything to the sentence, e.g.:
“I just wanted to say thank you.” (long)
“Thank you.” (concise)
Another word that shouldn’t be used is “quite” because it makes you sound unsure of yourself. For example:
“I’m quite hungry.” (long)
“I’m hungry.” (concise)
Also, don’t use the phrase “in my opinion.” It’s not needed because the reader only cares about your opinion.
These are just a few examples of words and phrases that can be cut out or rephrased to make your writing less wordy.
Intensifiers that don’t intensify
There are many words and phrases that sound like they should intensify something but don’t. These include:
“Very”, “really”, “extremely”, and so on. They might make your sentence flow better, but they don’t do anything for you, e.g.:
“I’m very hungry.” (long)
“I’m hungry.” (concise)
Instead of using these words, you should focus more on choosing the right adjective to describe your situation.
Repetition of words
Another point that will make your writing more concise is to avoid repeating words. Repetition of words can be embarrassing, and it can also make your writing seem less formal.
“I am excited about my new job. I am very excited about my new job.” (long)
“I’m excited for my new job.” (concise)
Don’t use the same word twice in a row
This might seem like common sense, but it’s really easy to do.
The words and phrases that you use twice within a sentence might not seem like much, but they do add up over time, e.g.:
“I was so excited to see her today. I couldn’t wait to see her.” (long)
“I was excited to see her. I couldn’t wait.” (concise)
The phrase “to see her” is used once in the second example, which seems more concise than the first one.
Using big words when smaller ones would work best
This is a mistake that most people make when they’re writing an essay or research paper.
Just because you know a big word doesn’t mean that it’s the right one to use in your sentence, e.g.:
“I’m going to convey this information from my personal perspective.” (long)
“I’m going to share this information.” (concise)
Instead of using big words like “convey and perspective,” the shorter word “share” is used in the second example. This makes it seem like there’s more emphasis on sharing information than the extra opinion of the messenger.
Confused words (“mixing up”)
Mixing up words can make your writing look unprofessional, and it doesn’t help the reader.
The most common words that people mix up are: there, their, they’re; then, then; here, hear; to, two.
When you’re writing an essay or research paper with a lot of information in it, it’s easy to mix these words up. To avoid this, read through your work again to check for errors before hitting publish/send.
Look for grouped synonyms
This tip is a lot like the last one. When you’re writing an essay or research paper with a lot of information in it, it’s easy to mix up words and phrases. A good way to avoid this mistake is to look for grouped synonyms.
“the act of doing something you should not do; the act of misbehaving.” (long)
The group of words “act of doing, the act of misbehaving” can be replaced by the word “misbehavior.” The grouped synonyms make the sentence sound more concise.
An expletive construction is a phrase that starts with “there,” “there is,” or “it.”
These are some of the most unnecessary phrases in all of English. They’re almost always used to simply give information that’s already mentioned in the sentence, e.g.:
“There are three things you should remember when writing an essay.” (long)
“Three things you should remember when writing an essay are:…” (concise)
In the second version, there is no need for “there” to be used. Instead, the information is organized, making it seem like there’s less repetition of words and phrases.
Qualifiers are words that needlessly make comparisons with an absolute scale, e.g.:
“Very unique.” (long)
The word “very” in the first sentence is unnecessary because “unique” already implies that something is already unique.
The word “really” can also be used as a qualifier, e.g.:
“Really unique.” (long)
In this case, using an adverb to describe how you feel about something is not necessary.
Extra prepositions are phrases that unnecessarily end in a preposition, e.g.:
“That is something I believe in.” (long)
“I believe that.” (concise)
The word “in” is not needed in the second sentence because it’s already implied by the word “believe.”
Extra prepositions are usually used when there’s a lack of words, so keeping sentences concise means not having to use extra prepositions.
Avoid vague words
Vague words are words that are not very specific, e.g.:
Instead of saying “something,” it’s better to be more specific about what exactly the “something” is.
“I want something.”
This sentence could apply to anything in particular, which makes it vague.
Instead of using vague words like “something,” it’s better to be more specific about what exactly the “something” is.
“I want pizza.”
Using the word “pizza” makes the sentence more specific, so there doesn’t have to be any assumptions about what you wanted.
Proofread and edit
For more concise writing, proofreading and editing the paper is important. It is the last step in the writing process, it helps in correcting a wordy sentence, eliminating extra words, redundant phrases, and ensuring the word count is within the given limit.
You can also check how to revise papers
Concise writing does not mean cold, sterile writing. It’s often more personal if you can write shorter sentences that allow you to express your feelings while also helping the reader follow your train of thought.
Concise writing is easier to read and understand. This is because using concise language makes the flow of ideas in an academic writing piece easier to follow. This makes it easy for your reader to figure out what you’re trying to say, which is the whole point of writing in the first place.