Eliminating Wordiness in Your Prose
Wordiness is a curse on style. You may think your professors enjoy
reading more of your deathless prose than is necessary, but you are wrong.
Wordiness is the result of sloppy thinking, poor editing, and laziness.
To weed excess words out of your writing, take the following steps.
Eliminate unnecessary intensifiers, especially weak ones, such as “very,”
“rather,” “quite,” and “somewhat.” Very few sentences change meaning
when these words are eliminated. (Try the last sentence without the "very"
and you'll see what I mean.)
Take a careful look at all adjectives and adverbs, and eliminate all unnecessary
and redundant modifiers. Is your meaning already in the subject or
verb? If so, cut out the modifiers.
Look at all the passive voice constructions and all uses of the verb “to
be.” More meaning can usually fit into fewer words with a concrete,
active verb. Try to eliminate “there is,” “it is,” and all similar
impersonal expressions. The heart of a good sentence is the subject
and verb core; make sure they hold meaning and interest.
Combine loose, choppy sentences into smoother wholes, with clear subordination
and coordination. If you see repeated words frequently, you can probably
use combinations and pronouns instead.
Almost every instance of a relative clause (one that begins with “who”
“that” or “which”) followed by a version of “to be” can be made shorter.
Eliminate these completely, if possible.