One of my favorite writing tips is always to trim down extra words wherever possible. Overly wordy prose can make an article appear rushed, amateurish and difficult to read. Luckily, there are some easy tricks to help you make your writing flow better and avoid becoming repetitive.
1. Replace Redundant Adjectives
An excellent first step in reducing wordiness is pruning redundant adjectives. Long lists of similar descriptors should often be cut down to only one, and maybe two if needed. Take this sentence:
“The big, loud, angry, violent crowd broke windows and flipped cars.”
The sentence above uses four adjectives to describe what could just as effectively be relayed by the words ‘mob’ or ‘angry mob.’ Here’s another example:
“He quickly, carefully, and quietly walked past the guards.”
In this sentence “slowly, carefully, and quietly” could be replaced with ‘crept,’ saving two words and improving the flow of the sentence. A single evocative noun or verb is always preferable to a long list of adjectives or adverbs.
2. Remove Redundant Pairs and Categories
Another way to slim down a wordy piece is by taking out common but redundant phrases in favor of single words. These repetitious pairs include the phrases ‘each individual’, ‘unexpected surprise,’ ‘final outcome,’ and ‘terrible tragedy,’ which could be trimmed down to ‘each,’ ‘surprise,’ ‘outcome,’ and ‘tragedy’ respectively.
This trimming of redundancies also extends words categorizing people and things. Phrases like ‘heavy in weight,’ ‘at an early time,’ and ‘unusual in nature’ can be shortened to ‘heavy,’ ‘early,’ and ‘unusual.’ The real lesson here is that if you’re saying something that you can express in one word, don’t use two or three. Eliminating these from your writing will make it easier to follow and more concise.
3. Take Out Words That State the Obvious and Add Excess Detail
This one can be a little difficult to master but learning how to remove unnecessary or apparent details from your writing will have a significant impact on your readability and flow. Take the following sentences:
“I received the notification that you sent to me yesterday regarding the imminent construction on my property, but in the message, you neglected to report the time you planned to arrive at my residence. Could you kindly at some point in the next few days relay to me the information of what time I may be expecting the workers?”
Here, there are several instances of repetition where none is required. The sentences could easily be trimmed down to their core meaning in far fewer words:
“I received your message about the construction on my house, but you didn’t say what time the workers were arriving. Please let me know soon.”
Even that may be more descriptive than strictly necessary, but it is already many words shorter. By removing information, both parties would both already know and descriptors that stated the obvious, the message became more explicit and more professional sounding. Incorporating this kind of editing takes practice, but it yields significant benefits for your writing.
4. Remove Unnecessary Determiners and Modifiers
Finally, an easy way to clean up your writing and eliminate unnecessary words is to make sure you aren’t using too many determiners and modifiers in your sentences. Phrases like ‘kind of,’ ‘sort of,’ ‘basically,’ and ‘actually’ tossed into sentences can give your writing a conversational feel because, in real life, these are filler words while you find what to say. But when you’re writing for business or professional correspondence, you want to avoid these as much as possible.
In the end, everyone is going to have their style and use language differently. However, by using these rules and practicing removing filler modifiers and determiners, avoiding redundant phrases, eliminating repetitive and obvious information you can vastly improve your writing.