If you’ve ever written something like this, you’ve been the victim of wordiness, the flab on your copy’s bones.
The text in the example above could be trimmed to this: “Our two branch offices can provide expert assistance that will keep your project on target and on deadline.” This new version is leaner, cleaner and has a lot more impact.
Why does wordiness happen? Usually the writer wants to sound sophisticated or formal, is nervous or unsure about the clarity of the message, has not reviewed the work for redundancies, becomes attached to particular phrases or has added padding to make the work appear impressive or substantial.
“Vigorous writing is concise,” stated William Strunk Jr. in his famous work The Elements of Style. Below are a couple of word-trimming routines to help you fight sentence bloat and turn your message into a powerhouse.
1. Crunch That Padding
As you read through your work, mentally note redundant words and phrases. If the piece reads well without the extra language, delete the surplus or rephrase your writing.
“Due to the fact that we have met our revenue goals” can be trimmed to “since we have met our revenue goals.”
“Dartmouth College, which is located in Hanover, N.H., is the smallest of the Ivy League colleges” can be rewritten as“located in Hanover, N.H., Dartmouth College is the smallest of the Ivy League colleges.”
Elements of Style includes a list of common expressions that contain unnecessary words and that could be weighing down your writing.
2. Cut Back on Modifiers
Strong nouns and verbs work better than adjectives and adverbs. Of course, modifiers are an important part of the language, but relying on them to put the vigor in your message results in weaker text. “Our new state-of-the-art widget is exceptionally efficient, working more swiftly than any other model on the market” is not as striking as “our new LX5 widget handles projects five times faster than the OP4, the current market favorite.”
A few extra words in a sentence may seem like no big deal, but when the most of your sentences or paragraphs have “a little extra,” it slows the pace of your writing and buries your message. Don’t make readers search your text to find the substance. Cut through the excess for sleek text that holds attention and enthusiasm.
If you’d like to evaluate how good you are at writing concisely, check out this exercise at one of my favorite grammar websites.