3 quick tips for more compact writing

Extraneous words are like bit of gravel in pudding. Here’s how to pick them out and get to the good stuff.

Writers can employ various categorical strategies to make their writing more active and concise.

Here are three simple types of unnecessary wording to keep in mind (and out of one’s writing).

1. Extinguish expletives. An expletive is an indirect phrase that only delays a reader’s acquaintance with the writer’s point. Expletives include “There is,” “there are,” “there was,” and “there were,” as well as any of these phrases with it substituting for there. It is not necessary to always delete expletives, as the current sentence demonstrates, but they should be employed judiciously.

In most cases, simply sweep the expletive away and begin with a subject, as in revision of “There are other steps a company can take before an economic downturn to protect against its impact” to “A company can take other steps before an economic downturn to protect against its impact.”

2. Adjust adjectives to adverbs. Business-speak, when rendered as text, is often stilted and verbose. One class of wordy wording often found in business writing is represented by such adjective-noun phrases as “on a daily basis,” which is easily replaced by the adverbial form of the adjective (which in this case is identical: daily).

Regarding similar usage, “This issue will be resolved on a case-by-case basis” is easily converted to “This issue will be resolved case by case.” (Again, the replacement is identical, though the hyphens are now superfluous.) Sometimes, the writer must replace the adjective, as in the case of timely, which is seldom used as an adverb and does not stand as such on its own: To render “in a timely manner” more concise, for example, simply substitute promptly.

3. Avoid adjectives. Some adjectives and adverbs themselves are extraneous. Such qualifiers as currently and different almost never contribute to comprehension.

For example, in “We are currently accepting applications,” the verb are clearly represents that acceptance of application is a current state, meaning that currently serves no useful purpose, and “These shirts come in seven different colors” provides no more information than “These shirts come in seven colors,” and different can therefore be omitted without negative consequences.

A version of this post first appeared on Daily Writing Tips.

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