LEOLEO: Literacy Education Online

Strategies for Reducing Wordiness


Wordiness results from many sources. Many of us have learned to pad our writing with all sorts of empty phrases to reach length requirements for academic writing. Wordiness also tends to occur when we're struggling to clarify our ideas or when we're tired and not thinking clearly. Regardless of the reason for padded writing, we can achieve concise writing if we incorporate several strategies during the writing process and if we're aware of the individual patterns of wordiness typical of our own writing.

Strategies for Eliminating Wordiness

You can eliminate wordiness in your writing if . . .

Patterns of Wordiness

As you read the following list, consider which patterns are typical of your writing:

  • Omit the filler phrases "it is," "there is," and "there are" at the beginning of sentences; these often delay the sentence's true subject and verb.

  • Omit "this" from the beginning of a sentence by joining it to the preceding sentence with a comma.

  • Change "which" or "that" constructions to an "-ing" word.

  • Omit "which" or "that" altogether when possible.

  • Replace passive verbs with active verbs. In passive constructions, the subject of the sentence is being acted upon; in active constructions, the subject is the actor.

  • Change "is" or "was" when they occur alone to a strong verb.

  • Replace "is," "are," "was," "were," or "have + an -ing word" to a simple present or past tense verb.

  • Replace "should," "would," or "could" with strong verbs.

  • Substitute strong verbs for "-tion" and "-sion" words whenever possible.

  • Replace prepositional phrases with one-word modifiers when possible. Prepositional phrases, those little relationship words like "of," "from," "after," etc., tend to bring in a lot of "-tion" and "-sion" words too.

  • Use a colon after a statement preceding a sentence of explanation, and leave out the beginning of the next sentence

  • Combine two closely related short sentences by omitting part of one.


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    © 1995, 2000 The Write Place
    LEO: Literacy Education Online
    This handout was written by Judith Kilborn for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

    URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/style/wordiness.html