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Consider the following tips for creating concise text:
- Be Specific
Be specific about all references to time, quantity, etc.
Instead of using currently or recently, specify last spring. Often when now and currently are implied, these words can be deleted without loss of meaning. Instead of saying several units were added, give a number or a rough estimate, such as almost 100.
- Use Shorter Words
Choose short, familiar words whenever possible.
When more than 15 percent of your words (except verbs and proper nouns) are three or more syllables, readers work too hard to understand your message. To reduce larger words, consider these tips:
- Use “about” instead of “approximately”
- Use “use” rather than “utilize”
- Convert nouns ending in -ion into verbs.
- Use “We considered...”instead of “We took into consideration...”
- Replace endeavor with try, aggregate with total, and optimum with best.
- Delete Extra Words
- Making your point without extraneous words helps readers clearly understand your message.
Evaluate every that in your text. Often that can be deleted without loss of meaning.
Avoid starting sentences with “In order to...” By deleting the words “in order,” you lose no meaning.
Rarely are the words needed. Consider deleting it or choosing another word. Very good can be excellent, and very important can be key.
- Use Shorter Sentences
Keep at least 75 percent of your sentences an average length of 10-20 words. If a sentence is longer than three typed lines, consider shortening it.
Think of your sentence lengths as music: quick, quick, slow becomes short, short, longer. Pleasing variations help your readers pay attention.
- Use Shorter Paragraphs
Keep at least 75 percent of your paragraphs one to three sentences long. If a paragraph is more than five typed lines, consider shortening it.
- Avoid Clichés and Jargon
Choose original ways of writing your message, avoiding well-known phrases such as, “When push comes to shove” and “By the same token.” These clichés and well-worn phrases will bore your readers.
Avoid the use of jargon whenever possible. This type of language or terminology will serve only to confuse readers who may be unfamiliar with your field of study.
- Watch Use of “It”
Avoid starting a sentence or clause with “It” unless the pronoun has a clear antecedent.
- Watch Use of “There”
Avoid starting sentences with “There” to prevent the use of empty introductory language.
- Use Strong Verbs
Use strong verbs whenever possible. Forms of the verb to be (e.g. am, is, are, was, were) do not maintain readers’ interest.
Instead of saying, “The meeting was productive,” consider, “The meeting generated good ideas for . . .”
- Favor the Active Voice
Favor the active voice over the passive voice to avoid vagueness unless the action is more important than the doer of the action.
Use of the imperative is a good technique for attracting readers and minimizing the use of passive voice constructions.
- Ask “So what?”
After you’ve written your text, evaluate every sentence by asking yourself, “Why is this particular piece of information important to my readers?
” If you cannot answer the question adequately about a sentence, consider deleting it.