Gardner’s earlier work describes complete economic stability as something that is impossible to achieve.
Gardner’s earlier work describes complete economic stability as impossible.
The segments “something that is” and “to achieve” add no meaning, and should therefore be omitted.
These are situations in which there is not very much social interaction.
These situations lack social interaction.
The key to writing concisely is often using a verb with a sharp and clear meaning to replace a longer way of expressing the same thing.
I think the risks of hydraulic fracturing clearly outweigh the benefits.
The risks of hydraulic fracturing clearly outweigh the benefits.
You almost never need to write “I think” or “I believe” in an academic paper. Readers will assume you think or believe something if you’ve taken the time and energy to write it in your paper.
Notice also that the concise sentence above feels bolder and more convincing. Writing students often use phrases like “I think” because they’re trying to point out that they know they could be wrong. In life in general it’s admirable to remember that you could be wrong about something, but your writing should be as clear and convincing as possible. State your idea boldly and confidently. If there are factors that could make your assertion incorrect, then clearly state what they are and how likely they are to influence your claim.
Nowadays, the price of oil is higher than it has ever been before.
The price of oil is higher than it has ever been.
You don’t need to say “nowadays” or “currently” in situations like this. If you simply state your idea without a time mentioned, readers will assume you mean the present. If you meant twenty years ago, then you would say so. You can also leave out the “before” at the end, because it has no effect on the meaning.
You could make the sentence even shorter, as in: “The price of oil is higher than ever.” But I like this sentence less. It sounds slightly informal to me. Writing concisely means eliminating unnecessary words, but that doesn’t mean making every sentence as short as possible. You also have to consider other values, like the tone of the writing.
She demonstrated a great deal of empathy for others.
She demonstrated remarkable empathy.
There’s no need to say “empathy for others,” because empathy is always for others.
And the meaning of the four words “a great deal of” can easily be captured by one strong and specific word like “remarkable.”
Participants sat in a circular formation during the meeting.
Participants sat in a circle during the meeting.
I can’t think of a situation in which a “circular formation” can’t be equally effectively described simply as a “circle.” If any readers can think of a context in which it’s better to write “circular formation,” please let me know!
When my students cannot detect the problem in this conciseness example, I ask them to draw a circular formation on the board. The answer comes to them when they realise they’ve drawn a circle.
Write concisely means eliminating unnecessary words. Concise writing is sharp and elegant and provides a great reading experience.
I’m going to share one wordy sentence with you (almost) every day and show how it can be made more concise. Every time you enjoy Your Daily Conciseness, you’re one step closer to mastering clean academic writing with no unnecessary words.
And, it’s fun! (Really, I mean it!)
Here’s Your Daily Conciseness #1:
Smith draws the conclusion that global warming is a threat to 125,000 species of insects.
Smith concludes that global warming threatens 125,000 insect species.
See the difference? I removed six words while preserving the meaning perfectly.
One of my recent posts introduced the concept of writing “concisely,” meaning eliminating unnecessary words.
Here are a few more examples.
1] Not concise (some people say “wordy”): this research sheds some light on
Quick fix: this research illuminates
The word “illuminates” is powerful and precise and replaces the four words “sheds some light on.”
2] Not concise: she researches various types of categories of minerals
Quick fix: she researches categories of minerals
The words “various types of” add no additional meaning to “categories” and so should be deleted.
3] Not concise: they sat in a circular formation
Quick fix: they sat in a circle
Isn’t a “circular formation” just a “circle”?
4] Not concise: the paper puts the emphasis on
Quick fix: the paper emphasizes
Same meaning, 50% fewer words.
If you have interesting examples of ways you’ve made your own writing more concise, please share them as a comment!
The best academic writing provides the most information with the fewest words. This is called being “concise.”
Think of being concise as eliminating unnecessary words.
Sometimes you do this naturally. You’d almost certainly never say this: “The sweater of Brenda is red.” [6 words]
Instead, you’d express the same idea more concisely: “Brenda’s sweater is red.” [4 words]
Although we all speak concisely at times, most writers could trim many words from their writing while preserving the meaning. Concise writing feels much sleeker and effective to readers.
But keep in mind that writing concisely means eliminating UNNECESSARY words. Writing concisely does not mean every sentence must be as short as possible. Sometimes extra words are useful. Here’s a great example. The most famous writing manual written in English is called The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White. In Steven Pinker’s new book, The Sense of Style, Pinker quotes White, a student of Strunk’s, talking about Strunk’s lecture style. According to White, Strunk once, with great pomp and ceremony, iterated his perspective on conciseness:
“Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!”
It’s funny at first, because nothing seems less concise than saying the exact same thing three times. But I wouldn’t suggest leaving out a single syllable. None of those words are unnecessary, because they make his utterance, through their sheer humorous irony, unforgettable.