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Avoiding Wordiness

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Overview: One way to make writing more clear is to cut out unnecessary words and phrases. The ability to write concisely is highly valued in most disciplines. Redundancies often slip in during drafting and revision, but they can be difficult to identify. While proofreading, be on the lookout for needless repetition and remove any words or phrases that do not add necessary information to what has already been said. Removing extra words allows the reader to more easily understand what the writer is saying.

Example 1

Wordy sentence: John hoped that his fellow classmates would collaborate together on the group project.

The word “fellow” is not adding anything to the sentence, since “classmates” makes it clear

they are members of the same group. Using both “collaborate” and “together” is also redundant, since the definition of collaborate is “work together.”

Revised version: John hoped that his classmates would collaborate on the group project.

Example 2

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

The phrase “green in color” is unnecessarily wordy, since “green” is obviously a color. To simplify this sentence, we can remove “in color” and place the word “green” before shirt where it will function as a modifier describing Corey’s shirt. The phrase “of the fact” can also be removed, because the color of Corey’s shirt is not up for debate.

Revised version: Because Corey wore a green shirt, no one saw the grass stains.

Example 3

Wordy sentence:  It is advised by the board that we go forward with the deposition.

If a sentence begins with “It is” or “It was” you should check for wordiness. The sentence above is in the passive voice, which makes it more wordy than it needs to be. Eliminating “It is” from the beginning of the sentence and instead placing the subject (the board) directly next to the verb (advise) puts the sentence into the active voice and makes it more clear and concise.

Revised Version: The board advises that we go forward with the deposition.

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) 2014.  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.


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