University Writing Center Blog

Posted on February 21st, 2014 by Jennifer Mahoney

by David Gurecki, Student Consultant, University Writing Center

One issue that many writers face, including myself, is concise writing. Writers often include words and phrases that do not add to their writing and prolong the journey of getting to the writer’s ideas. Readers want to see what your paper is about quickly, so here are some tips to help you trim the fluff and get to your point.

1. Oh Lord, the Phrases!
Writers often use phrases in their writing such as “by means of”, “due to the fact”, “all things considered”, “as far as I’m concerned”, “it seems that”, and many more phrases that could be cut from their writing. An example in a sentence would be “people who have knowledge on traveling know there could be flight delays” could instead be written as “knowledgeable travelers know there could be flight delays.”

2. Repeat….Repeat….Repeat
Often in writing people repeat themselves, whether that is from sentence to sentence or word to word. Examples from the word level would be things like saying “12 midnight” instead of saying “midnight”, “biography of her life” instead of “her biography” , or “revert back” instead of just “revert.” I would demonstrate sentence level, but the title of this post is “short and sweet,” and that would make it longer than I would like. The most important aspect to remember with repeating is to go back through your work and see if things either repeat or ideas are repeated across sentences.

3. Ditch the Clichés
Clichés are commonly used phrases such as “face the music”, “tried and true”, “they fell head over heels in love”, or “they’re cold as cucumber.” These phrases were cool and witty when they were first being used, but now they are “old hat.” The best approach is to skip the phrase and get to what you want to say.

4. Meaningless Modifiers
When describing things writers tend to go overboard with modifiers. Examples of this would be saying “an extremely unpleasant experience” instead of saying “an unpleasant experience” or “the very fast rabbit ran across the field” instead of “the fast rabbit ran across the field.” These are just a few examples of when there unnecessary information added that doesn’t help too much. As the reader we know the person had an unpleasant experience, the word extremely will not buff that up too much. And the same goes for that rascally rabbit.

When writing please keep these four points in mind, they will help your writing be smoother, help your professor grade your work easier, and will keep things short and sweet.

For more help with concise writing please follow these links: