Strive for conciseness in your writing

Many sins of poor writing are lumped under the heading of “wordiness.” Among them are redundancy; overuse of adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases; and use of big words when a small one will do.

A concise piece of writing is as short as it can be while still being complete. A brief piece of writing is short, but it may be incomplete. That is, missing essential facts or convenient words.

Don't eliminate words and phrases that provide linkage and clarity. These include a, an, and the. Most readers expect these articles in the natural flow of language. When you omit them, you force the reader to supply them. For example:

  • When you have a problem, OSU Extension Service will help you solve it.
  • When you have a problem, the OSU Extension Service will help you solve it. (Correct)

Shortening phrases

Shortening phrases by eliminating “which” and “that” clauses and unnecessary prepositional phrases (learn more about prepositional phrases):

  • Many biological journals, especially those which regularly publish new scientific names...
  • Many biological journals, especially those regularly publishing new scientific names...
  • state in each issue the exact date of publication of the preceding issue.
  • give the date of each preceding issue.
  • In dealing with journals which do not follow this practice...
  • With journals not following this practice...
  • ...the biologist often needs to resort to indexes in order to determine the actual date of publication of a particular name.
  • ...the biologist must turn to indexes to date a particular name.

These bracketed phrases can be omitted with no loss in meaning:

  • Every thinking person these days seems inclined to agree [with the conception] that the world has gone mad.
  • Anyone acquainted with violin construction knows that the better the wood is seasoned, the better [the result will be as far as] the tone of the instrument [is concerned].
  • After 14 minutes, we arrived at [the spot where] the manure lagoon overflow [was situated].
  • The following statistics [serve to] give a good idea of the effects of sauerkraut.
  • He kept things moving at breakneck speed throughout the [entire] performance.
  • The green [colored] leaves are rectangular [in shape].
  • The architecture [of the buildings] and the landscaping [of the grounds] whisper a word of university pride to visitors.

You can reduce clauses to phrases:

  • The man who was waiting in the lobby looked bored.
  • The man waiting in the lobby looked bored.

Avoid “it” and “there” beginnings. These are known as false subjects and add unneeded words.

  • It is suggested....
  • I suggest....
  • It is noted....
  • We note....

Be ruthless in eliminating any other unnecessary words (as long as you keep your intended meaning):

  • We will make arrangements to meet you.
  • We will meet you.
  • Let me take this opportunity to inform you that the meeting is at noon.
  • The meeting is at noon.

Words to substitute

Some words and phrases to avoid if you don't want your writing to sound pretentious, bureaucratic, and pompous. The substitutes in the right-hand column are shorter and clearer.

Avoid Use instead
in the event that if
for the purpose of for, to
in order to to
prior to before
subsequent to after
at the present time,
at this point in time
now, currently
regarding about
until such time as until
in view of the fact that because, since
become cognizant know
utilize use
ascertain find out, learn
purchase buy
be in a position to can
facilitate help
sufficient enough