{CLEAR & CONCISE WRITING}


If you struggle with wordiness or have been told your writing is too formal or hard to follow, these tips may help you get some control.

Qualifiers

Redundancy

Ex. (Wordy) First and foremost, the pieces must be aligned in an accurate manner.
Ex. (Concise) First, the pieces must be aligned accurately.

Sentences

Ex. (Slow start) Whatever results are found during the trials, and they may or may not be favorable, we will stand behind the science. [The subject, we, is the sixteenth word in the sentence.]
Ex. (Revised) Whatever results are found during the trials, we will stand behind the science. [Here, we is the eighth word, and the reader gets to the meat of the sentence sooner.]
 
Ex. (Interrupted) The report, compiled by fourteen separate government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense and featuring more than 3,000 pages and 732 appendices, was confusing.
Ex. (Revised) The report was confusing, perhaps because it was compiled by fourteen separate government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense and was more than 3,000 pages long—not including 732 appendices.
 
Ex. (Interrupted) We must make, if we want to be respected, sound choices.
Ex. (Revised) If we want to be respected, we must make sound choices.
Ex. (Revised) We must make sound choices if we want to be respected.
 
Ex. There are several syntactic devices that let you manage where you locate units of new information in a sentence.
Ex. (Revised) Several syntactic devices let you manage where you locate units of new information in a sentence.
Ex. The use of this method would eliminate the problem.
Ex. (Revised) This method would eliminate the problem.
 
Ex. (Nominalization) to effect an installation, to conduct an analysis, to give consideration
Ex. (Strong verb) to install, to analyze, to consider
 
Ex. (Not parallel) I can’t finish my paper because I am sick, my sister’s wedding, and a computer explosion.
Ex. (Parallel) I can’t finish my paper because I’m sick, I’m going to my sister’s wedding, and I’m without a computer.
 
Ex. (Modifier far away) Scientists have learned that their observations are as subjective as those in any other field in recent years.
Ex. (Modifier close) In recent years, scientists have learned that that their observations are as subjective as those in any other field.

Emphasis

Ex. Although a great imagination was her gift, writing stories was never Matilda’s strength. [This version puts the focus on writing rather than on Matilda.]
Ex. Although a great imagination was her gift, Matilda was never very good at writing stories. [This version puts the focus on Matilda.]
Ex. Matilda was never very good at writing stories although she had the gift of a great imagination. [This version puts the focus on Matilda and puts the main clause first, the most emphatic position.]
 
Ex. (Beginning position) Lincoln’s claim that the Civil War was God’s punishment of both North and South for slavery appears in the last part of the speech.
Ex. (End position) In the last part of his speech, Lincoln claims both North and South suffered slavery as a punishment from God.
 
Ex. (Passive voice) The window was broken. [The writer doesn’t know or doesn’t want to say who broke it.]
Ex. (Passive voice) The exquisite stained-glass window was broken. [The writer wants to focus the reader’s attention on the window.]
 
Ex. (Active voice) My little brother broke the window. [The writer wants to emphasize the actor. The result is a direct, concise sentence.]
Ex. (Passive voice) The window was broken by my little brother. [This version is longer, less direct, and shifts emphasis away from the actor. The active version above is preferable, unless  the writer has a particular reason for emphasizing the window and deemphasizing the brother.]