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Avoiding Wordiness

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Overview:

One way to make writing more concise is to cut out unnecessary words and phrases. Because we often see or hear redundancies, they can be easy to overlook. Therefore, while proofreading, be on the lookout for needless repetition and eliminate expressions that add nothing to what’s already been said.

      A) John hoped that his fellow classmates would collaborate together on the group project.

      B) John hoped that his classmates would collaborate on the group project.

Example A) demonstrates how too many words can make a sentence clunky and redundant. The word “fellow” is adding nothing to the sentence, as “classmates” essentially carries the same meaning. The same goes for the words “collaborate” and “together.”

      A) Because of the fact that Corey wore a shirt that was green in color, no one saw the grass stains.

      B) Because Corey wore a green shirt, no one saw the grass stains.

“Green in color” is repeating information that’s already been given, as is the intro phrase “Because of the fact”. Since it is already evident that green IS a color, giving that information again is repetitive. Cutting out the words that weigh the sentence down allows the reader to more easily understand what the writer is saying.

      A) It is advised from the board that we go forward with the deposition.

      B) The board advises that we go forward with the deposition.

Sentences that begin with “It is/was” usually exemplify excess wordiness. Furthermore, as shown in Example A), using “it is” makes the sentence passive instead of forthright. Eliminating “It is” from the beginning of the sentence and instead pairing the subject directly next to the verb makes the sentence active and thus clearer.

      A) Patrick made the decision to start a blog.

      B) Patrick decided to start a blog.

Using the noun form of a verb creates wordy sentences. The simplest way to get the point across is always to pair the subject next to the verb, and using the noun form of the verb means that you must use a different verb to carry the action. Therefore, as in example B), use the main verb form instead.

Style Matters:

One way to check for wordiness as you’re proofreading is to mark sections of your writing that you struggled to produce. Starting the writing process is often the most difficult stage, and during it you may realize that you incorporate filler language to jumpstart your writing. Make sure that as you revise, note sentences or sections that required extra effort to get through, as they may contain excessively wordy language.


Copyright (C) 2010. All rights reserved.
This handout is part of a library of instructional materials used in California State University, Long Beach’s writing center, the Writer’s Resource Lab. Educators and students are welcome to distribute copies as long as they do so with attribution to all organizations and authors. Commercial distribution is prohibited.