Author Archives: Lauren

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 3

Concise prose is clear and compelling; reading it requires it a minimum of time, effort, and hassle. If your prose is clear and concise, then readers are more likely to read it thoroughly, to understand it accurately, and to appreciate its message.

Here are two more specific, straightforward ways to clarify and condense your writing.

Remove unnecessary introductory phrases. Like clarifying phrases, introductory phrases are often unnecessary. It is appropriate to specify a particular author (“According to Smith,”) but superfluous to mention that information originated from a vague, unnamed source (“Reports show that…”). It is appropriate to clarify a sentence’s relationship to its preceding sentence (“Conversely,”) but unwarranted to specify its content’s general existence (“It has become clear that…”).

Therefore, never begin a sentence with a phrase that contains no particular information, such as: “In my opinion,” “It appears that,” “I do not mean to suggest that,” “One can see how,” “It should be noted that,” “In short,” “Basically,” “In other words,” “The meaning of this is that,” “It is recognizable that,” etc.

Instead, simply explain the meaning or relate the recognizable information. If you want to state something in other words, then simply do so; either it is an obvious clarification that needs no introduction, or it is an unnecessary repetition that should be eliminated. Never inform the reader that something should be noted; the mere statement of the information should seize the reader’s attention. Do not hedge a statement by remarking that it is merely your opinion; instead, describe and support your opinion and convince the reader to agree with you.

If removing a phrase does not change the sentence’s meaning or obscure the paragraph’s logic, then do so.

Eliminate general wordiness. As a rule of thumb, use the fewest words that can communicate your message clearly. If you can eliminate a word or phrase without eliminating essential meaning, then do so. This is not an absolute law; nevertheless, if you establish it as a general goal, then your writing will greatly improve.

Example:

“When it comes to the memo he wrote, his main aim was to attempt to point out that the feedback his boss was offering every day was helping him, and he argued that the result of her criticism was that he had the opportunity to meet the goal of improving his work.”
–>
“His memo explained that his boss’s daily feedback helped him improve his work.”

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 2

Concise prose is clear and compelling; reading it requires it a minimum of time, effort, and hassle. If your prose is clear and concise, then readers are more likely to read it thoroughly, to understand it accurately, and to appreciate its message.

Here are three more specific, straightforward ways to clarify and condense your writing.

Use fewer participles. A participle is nonspecific and vague; it has no tense or number. Overusing participles results in ambiguous, shoddy prose. (The previous sentence demonstrates proper participle use; “overusing participles” is a general idea that needs no specific context.) If a participle requires an additional verb or adjective to clarify it, then it should be rewritten into a different verbal form.

Examples:

“The audit that she is expecting…” –> “The audit that she expects…”

“Bystanders were impeding their journey.” –> “Bystanders impeded their journey.”

Participles are also used as verbal nouns. Verbal nouns are generally less specific, and they can be confusing; hence, whenever possible, replace a verbal noun with an actual noun or rephrase the sentence.

Examples:

“Her discussing the issue was rude.” –> “Her discussion of the issue was rude.” OR “It was rude of her to discuss the issue.”

“The building of the new museum was going to begin soon.” –> “The construction of the new museum would begin soon.”

Use possessives. When possible, use a simple possessive instead of an explanatory phrase. This streamlines the text and quickly clarifies the relationships between various words.

Examples:

“The results of the survey that she had conducted…” –> “Her survey’s results…”

“The money from the donors was added to the fund that the organization was establishing.” –> “The donors’ money was added to the organization’s fund.”

“The behavior of the cat escaped the notice of the owner of the animal.” –> “The cat’s behavior escaped its owner’s notice.”

Remove unnecessary clarifiers. Clarifying phrases like “there are” or “the fact that” have no inherent meaning. Sometimes, such a phrase usefully ensures that various words relate to each other lucidly. In most cases, however, such phrases are superfluous and only make sentences wordier.

Such unnecessary verbosity can be corrected by simply removing the unneeded words or by using a precise word instead of an explanatory phrase.

Examples:

“There are few companies that provide…” –> “Few companies provide…”

“The reason women will buy this is that…” –> “Women will buy this because…”

“It was evident that he was hungry.” –> “He was clearly hungry.”

“The fact that Johnny died…” –> “Johnny’s death…”

Sometimes, on the other hand, a clarifying phrase improves a sentence.

Example:

“The wallet I had found was empty.” –> “The wallet that I had found was empty.” OR “I had found that the wallet was empty.”

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

How to Write Clearly and Concisely: Part 1

Concise prose is clear and compelling. It is easy to read, understand, and remember. Wordy and rambling text, on the other hand, can be frustrating and difficult to decipher. A reader should not have to wade through many words, carefully considering their interactions, in order to grasp a sentence’s meaning. Succinct and precise text flows well; it can be comprehended with a minimum of time, effort, and hassle.

If your prose is clear and concise, then readers are more likely to read it thoroughly, to understand it accurately, and to appreciate its message. Whether you want to attract customers, impress your boss, motivate your employees, or inform your coworkers, the goal of your writing is to communicate; therefore, you must obtain your audience’s attention and comprehension. Make the reader’s job easier and your job more successful by writing simply and smoothly.

Here are two specific, straightforward ways to clarify and condense your writing.

Use specific verbs. One simple way to make your writing clearer and more concise is to use more verbs. If you use an adjective, noun, or phrase when a single verb could communicate the same thing, then your prose will be weak and cluttered. Verbs are active and efficient; if you use them whenever possible, then your writing will be vigorous and compelling.

Instead of writing what something is, write what it does. Instead of using two verbs that form a phrase, use one verb that is sufficiently specific. This shortens a sentence and emphasizes its meaning. If a noun or adjective has a verbal form, then use it (“had an influence on” –> “influenced”). This not only clarifies your writing but also strengthens it so that it communicates more powerfully.

Examples:

“This will make our policy clearer.” –> “This will clarify our policy.”

“He became an outspoken critic of her work.” –> “He openly criticized her work.”

“This is a positive for them.” –> “This benefits them.”

“I have reached the conclusion that he has a tendency to lie.” –> “I have concluded that he tends to lie.”

“She conducted research on market trends.” –> “She researched market trends.”

Use fewer prepositions. Often, a verb that requires a preposition (“go back,” “figure out”) can be replaced by a single, more specific verb (“return,” “determine”); this makes your text more concise and less awkward. Additionally, verbs that require prepositions are usually informal and hence less appropriate in professional documents.

Many prepositional phrases (“problems with his finances,” “a person in her employ”) can be transformed into adjectives, verbs, or more specific nouns (“his financial problems,” “her employee”). This simplifies the sentence structure so that it flows smoothly and is easier to read.

Examples:

“Talk about it in explicit terms.” –> “Explicitly address it.”

“This was called into question by John.” –> “John questioned it.”

“She summarized the responsibilities she had at her job.” –> “She summarized her professional responsibilities.”