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.


“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.


“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.


“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.


“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.


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