Six Steps to More Concise Writing

Six Steps to More Concise Writing

Concise writing uses no more words than are necessary to create meaning. Here are six ways to achieve conciseness in your writing.


Avoid redundancy. Look at this list–the words in parentheses aren’t necessary. They say the same thing as the main phrase.

ten p.m. (at night)
tall (in height)
our (final) conclusion
(the month of) June
square (in shape)
to combine (together)
to ask (a question)
a consensus (of opinion)


Watch out for wordy phrases. Wordiness happens when you use more words than you need to say something. For example, ”in view of the fact that” means simply, “because.”

Wordy vs. Concise Writing

Wordy                                                                       Concise

based on the fact that                                              because
despite the fact that                                                 although
in the event that                                                       if
at the present time                                                  now
until such a time as                                                 until
on a weekly basis                                                     weekly
it is often the case that                                           often
have the ability to                                                   can
during the course of                                               during
take under consideration                                      consider
to be of the opinion                                                to think
to make reference to                                              to refer to
in the final analysis                                                finally


Make your subject clear and defined.

Unclear: The practice of revision would improve our writing.
Clear: Revision would improve our writing.

Avoid empty subjects it and there (called expletives) when possible.

Empty: There is no way to become a better writer than to practice.
Defined: We can become better writers if we practice.


Use strong verbs. Avoid using sentences that rely overly on some form of the word ’to be’ in combination with nouns or prepositions.

to be + nouns: What we found was a solution to the problem.
Strong verb: We solved the problem.


Avoid vague words. Words like ”thing,” ”stuff,” ”material,” ”people,” ”get,” or ”did” should be replaced with precise nouns or verbs.

Vague: I needed to get some stuff at the store.
Clear: I needed to buy some groceries at the farmer’s market.


Remove unnecessary modifiers. Too many modifiers weaken the force of your writing; they bury your main ideas in a mountain of words that don’t mean much. Look for modifiers like ”many,” ”really,” ”quite,” ”in my opinion,” and so on, and edit them out of your writing.

Unnecessary: In my opinion, that movie was really quite good. I’m very glad we saw it.
Concise: That movie was fantastic! I’m glad we saw it.

If the revision of that sentence sounds too simple, think of other ways to modify it that add information. Adding words like “really” or “quite” do not add information. However, you could say, “That movie was an interesting retelling of a familiar story,” for example.