How often have you written something only to realize later that it was too wordy or verbose? If you want to write concisely and succinctly, then you need to master the art of writing concisely and succinctly.
Writing concisely and succinctly means using fewer words and phrases to get across your point. This is especially important in today’s busy world where time is limited. The average person reads at a rate of around 238 words per minute. And that’s before they even start reading emails, texts, and other items throughout the day.
Concise writing requires careful attention to detail and organization, and there are several ways to organize information into a clear and concise format. One way is through bullet points. Another is through numbered lists. Both of these methods allow readers to easily scan and absorb information.
There are many methods one can employ in order to write concisely and succinctly, and still get your point across to the reader.
Concise Writing: What Is It, and Why Does It Matter?
Writing concisely means using the fewest number of words necessary to communicate a concept clearly. This isn’t just about cutting out unnecessary sentences; it’s about eliminating fluff and filler text that doesn’t add anything useful.
There are many reasons why we might want to write concisely, including saving space, reducing redundancy, and improving readability. But perhaps the biggest benefit of writing concisely is that it makes our readers’ lives easier. They don’t have to spend as much time wading through dense prose. And if they do take the time to read what you’ve written, they’re less likely to lose focus because there’s nothing else to distract them.
Eliminate Redundant Words
Cutting redundant words like tautology can help create stronger, clearer sentences. Tautological statements—like “I am tired,” “It is raining,” or “The sky is blue”—are often used to make a statement sound more authoritative. But they don’t actually add anything useful to your writing. If you’re trying to prove something, it might be better to use a different word altogether.
Tautology is defined as an expression or phrase that repeats the same information. A tautology is one way to say the same thing twice; it’s a redundancy. Redundant language takes up space, slows down readers, and makes your writing seem less clear. Eliminating redundancies helps simplify sentences and get your point across faster.
Strengthen Weak Adjectives
You know what makes a great adjective? A strong one. But how do you tell whether a particular adjective is strong or weak?
The answer lies in the context. If you use a strong adjective to describe a person, place or thing, it probably needs to be strengthened. However, if you use a strong adjective like “good,” “great,” “terrible,” etc., to describe yourself, it probably doesn’t need strengthening.
Using strong, descriptive adjectives like “good,” “great,” and “amazing” can help trim down sentence length. Look for places where you’ve used two words to describe things when one would suffice. For example, “The food was great and tasty” could be replaced with “The food was delicious.” This makes it easier to read and understand, especially for people with short attention spans. Strong adjectives also strengthen your writing; they add vividness and energy to your sentences. When you use stronger adjectives, you can write shorter sentences without sacrificing meaning.
Don’t Overuse Adjectives
Adjectives oftentimes work as modifications for nouns. In fact, they are used to describe nouns and add colorful detail to otherwise bland sentences. Adjectives can be used to describe things like feelings about objects, as well as the appearance of objects. They make it easier to write descriptions about yourself, your favorite items, as well as your own surroundings.
But overusing adjectives can also threaten succinct writing. If you write, “The man wore a blue shirt,” you might mean that he had a blue shirt on.
If you wrote something else like “The brave man rescued the clumsy child who fell into a stormy river,” this could fit the description of the situation very nicely, and has just enough colorful adjectives to provide enough information about that situation for the reader.
Instead, try focusing on making sure that adjectives aren’t being overused. One example of this is something like “The real scary poor man ran towards the strange garbage can.” In this example, you can see three adjectives trying to describe the man.
In this situation, unless the man actually was “real scary poor,” you wouldn’t want to use all three. Instead, something like “The scary man ran towards the strange garbage can,” since the man could be rich and not poor, unless we know all of the facts involved.
Eliminate Filler Words
Filler words are those words you use every day without thinking twice about it. Words like “um,” “uh,” “err,” and “like.” You know what we’re talking about. These words don’t really mean anything; they just fill up space.
Grammatical mistakes come in many different forms, and many writers do make grammatical mistakes in writing. While some people might argue that grammar isn’t important, the truth is that it does matter. When you write something, you want to communicate effectively and clearly. If you don’t do that, you risk confusing readers.
So how do you stop making these mistakes? Start eliminating them.
Use Active Voice When Writing, Rather Than Passive Voice
Some sentence structures are inherently better than others. For example, while the passive voice isn’t necessarily wrong, it tends to be a weaker form of writing. When you’re trying to make a point, it’s much easier to do so with an active voice. Active voice is where you take action. Passive voice is where someone else takes action. You don’t want to go too far into the passive voice, though; there are times when it works well, like when you’re talking about things that happened “on our end.” But if you’re just describing what happened, stick to an active voice.
The passive voice doesn’t always make sense, especially when writing about technical topics. It’s usually used to soften harsh language, such as describing someone being fired, rather than to describe something happening naturally. However, there are times where the passive voice makes sense. Here are some guidelines for choosing whether to use the passive voice.
- When you’re describing something happening naturally
- When your subject is being actively influenced by another thing
- When someone else has control over what they do
- When you want to soften a hard truth
- When you are using passive voice because it sounds fancy or makes things more convenient for you
- When you want to use the passive voice because you think it sounds better than an active sentence
When you’re writing, you should strive to keep sentences short and concise. This will not only improve your writing style but also save time and effort.
If you have a long paragraph full of run-ons (sentences that start with a conjunction), then chances are you’re using too many words.
Use More Precise Words to Describe Concepts
We tend to use a lot of words to talk about concepts that aren’t very complex. When describing basic topics, such as how to cook pasta, we usually use a lot of simple vocabulary. But when we’re trying to explain something complicated, we often resort to longer sentences and more precise language.
For example, let’s look at the following sentence: “The politician talked about several of his accomplishments during his campaign.” Now, it seems pretty straightforward, right? He mentioned some of his achievements, right? Well, yes, he did mention some of his accomplishments. However, he didn’t do anything particularly clever here. If he had simply said, “He listed some of his accomplishments,” it would have been much clearer and easier to understand.
Sentence Combining is one of those things you learn about in school, but don’t really understand until later in life. You know it’s important because teachers keep harping on it, but you just can’t wrap your head around why it matters.
The problem is that sentences are hard to combine. They’re usually longer than necessary. And even when they aren’t, there’s no easy way to cut down on wordiness.
But combining sentences isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s actually a good idea. Here are three reasons why:
It saves space.
Combining sentences allows you to pack a lot of information into fewer words. Let’s take a look at this sentence: “The politician talked about several aspects of his career.” That’s a lot of information packed into four words!
Now, if you were to break up that sentence into smaller pieces, you’d end up with something like this:
“The politician talked about several parts of his career.”
That’s not only shorter, but it’s also easier to read. It’s also easier to understand. The first version is so long that it’s difficult to follow. The second version is short enough that you can read it quickly.
So, next time you find yourself writing a lengthy sentence, consider breaking it up into smaller ones. It’ll help you save space while making your point clear.
It improves clarity.
When you combine sentences, you get rid of unnecessary words. So, for example, instead of writing, “She was upset that she couldn’t go out,” you could write, “She was upset because she couldn’t go out.” In other words, by combining the two sentences, you’ve eliminated an entire phrase.
And that means you’ve made your point clearer. By eliminating unnecessary words, you’ve reduced clutter. And that means your readers will be able to focus their attention on the most relevant points.
It reduces redundancy.
Redundancy happens when you repeat the same information over and over again. For example, let’s say you want to describe a person who has many talents. Instead of saying, “He’s smart, funny, athletic, artistic, and kind,” you might say, “He’s smart and funny and athletic and artistic and kind.”
By repeating certain phrases or ideas, you risk sounding redundant. And that makes your writing sound boring and uninteresting.
Make Sure That You Limit Your Use of Adverbs
Adverbs are words which modify verbs or adjectives. You probably know some examples like “quickly,” “frequently,” “truly,” “really,” “very,” “happily.”
But did you know that adverbs are unnecessary words that clutter up your sentences? And that they’re even worse than useless filler—they actually make your writing sound stilted and unnatural?
I’m not saying never use them. But if you want to write succinctly, it’s best to keep your adverb count down. Here’s why.
Adverbs Are Often Unnecessary Words
When you think about it, most adverbs aren’t necessary at all. Why? Because they don’t add anything to what you’re trying to say. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The sentence “He quickly ran toward her” doesn’t really need the word “quickly.” If we cut out the adverb, we’d end up with something like this: “He ran toward her.” In fact, there’s no reason to include both “quickly” and “run” in the same sentence. So, while adverbs might seem helpful, they usually aren’t.
Adverbs Make Writing Sound Clunky
If you want to sound natural, avoid using too many adverbs. They tend to make your writing sound stiff and unnatural. That’s because they’re often used as fillers.
Here is an example sentence: “It was often a very wonderful evening, and they often got together quite often with a large group of people.” Notice how the writer uses the word “often” three times in just one short paragraph. That’s a lot of unnecessary repetition.
One example of improving on this could be: “It was a very wonderful evening, and they often got together with a large group of friends.”
Adverbs Can Be Confusing
Another problem with adverbs is that they can cause confusion. When you use a bunch of them, it can be hard to figure out exactly what you mean.
Here’s an example. The sentence “She was very happy” sounds fine. But then, the author adds another adverb: “to see him smile.” Suddenly, the meaning changes. It’s no longer clear whether the author meant that she was happy to see him smile or that she was happy to have seen him smile.
So, if you want to write concisely, limit your use of adverbs.
Be Sure to Limit Turns of Phrase
The English language has countless idiomatic phrases, colloquialisms, and vernacular. These phrases mean something that the words themselves do not convey, like “under the weather,” meaning sick. They’re often used as substitutes for specific terms, like saying you’re feeling fine when you really aren’t.
A turn of phrase is any type of expression that the audience doesn’t understand from context alone, like “the dog ate my homework.” This means that it’s clear what the speaker wants to say without having to read further, and thus, he or she uses a more concise way of expressing himself or herself.
Many figures of speech are either wordy and clichéd or use someone else’s generalizations rather than your own specifics. For example, many people say things like “I’m trying to make a change in myself,” or “I want to improve my life.” While those statements are true, they could just as easily be expressed as “I’m working hard to become a better person,” or “I’m making changes in my life.”
Ensure You Use Specifics Instead of Generalities
One of the best ways to write succinctly is by avoiding vague generalities. A generalization is a statement that applies to everyone. For instance, “All dogs love to eat grass.” That’s a pretty broad statement, but it also happens to be true. However, it doesn’t tell us much about individual dogs.
Instead, try using specifics. For example, instead of saying “all dogs love to eat grass,” say “my dog loves to eat grass.” Or, instead of saying “everybody loves to eat grass,” say, “my friend loves to eat grass.” By doing so, you’ve made your sentences more precise and direct.
Don’t Use Too Many Words
When you’re writing, you should always strive to keep your sentences short and sweet. One of the easiest ways to achieve this goal is to avoid using too many words.
When you use too many words, you end up repeating yourself. You might even repeat the same word over and over again. This makes your writing seem stilted and unnatural.
Avoid Repeating Yourself
If you want to write concisely, don’t repeat yourself. In other words, don’t use the exact same words twice in one sentence.
For example, if you wanted to express the idea that you were going to go home and take a nap, you could say, “I am going to go home and I will take a nap.” However, if you said, “I am going home and I will take naps,” you’d be repeating yourself.
Limit the Use of Fancy Words and Jargon
Fancy words are used frequently in academic writing, especially in essays. They’re great for making ideas sound smart, but they don’t always add clarity. Sometimes, you don’t even know what the fancy word means, so you might as well just use plain English.
For example, “cynosure” doesn’t mean much without context. If you want to describe someone as the object of everyone’s gaze, you could simply write “Jordan was the subject of many stares.” On the other hand, “Jordan was the cynosure of all eyes” sounds like he had some sort of special power over people. You’d probably better explain what “cynosure” actually means.
The same goes for “clandestinely,” “regretting,” and other such words. When in doubt, stick to simple, straightforward language.
Simple writing is more concise—not only in the sense that the reader is able to understand what you mean faster, but also because the writer can use less words to convey the same idea. For example, “secretly” conveys the same information as “clandestinely.” Similarly, “cynosure” conveys the same idea as “center of attention.” But “cynosure,” while shorter, is much harder to read.
Excessively fancy writing is often used to impress people, especially those who do not know English well. However, overuse of fancy words makes writing hard to understand. This is why many writers advise avoiding long sentences whenever possible. A good way to avoid making too many mistakes is to write shorter, clearer sentences.
Overstatement is a common writing mistake. It reduces impact by diminishing credibility. In fact, overstatements diminish credibility because they are exaggerated. They’re like people who bang the table after every sentence. Can you take them seriously?
The problem with overstatements isn’t that they’re wrong. It’s that they’re too extreme. If you want to make your point, don’t exaggerate. You’ll reduce credibility. Instead, use understatement. Understatement is less extreme, and therefore more credible.
Writing Concisely and Succinctly is an Art But Also a Science
Writing in such a way that is concise and succinct is a skill that can be learned with practice. The more you write, the better you will get!
By practicing writing concisely, you can improve your writing overall.
Learn to write concisely on a regular basis, and your readers will thank you.
When do you plan on improving your writing next?