Have you ever wondered how to write concisely? The answer is probably yes – especially if you have assignments with a word limit. However, the benefits of concise writing extend beyond university. For example, writing concisely helps you create more effective business letters, project reports, and emails. Beyond this, making your point clearly and promptly gives your readers easy access to key information. This keeps them engaged. So, read on, and we’ll explain how you can say more with fewer words.
What is concise writing?
The word concise is an adjective. It means “giving a lot of information clearly and in a few words”. Or, to be concise, “brief and comprehensive”. In a nutshell, concise writing is the art of conveying your ideas using the fewest possible words.
Why is it important?
Long-winded sentences can be overwhelming and confusing. If your key message is buried in reams of sprawling prose, your readers will become confused and disengaged. Essentially, concise writing is clear writing, and clear writing has two benefits. Firstly, it engages your readers, secondly, it explains your ideas in a way that they can understand. This will make your writing more persuasive, more memorable, and ultimately more successful.
So, how do I write concisely?
Here are a few ways to make your point using fewer words.
3 Eliminate repetitive filler words
Sometimes, writers will use repetitive words to boost their word limit. However, this only serves to make your writing harder to read. Consider the following sentences:
Mother will be home after a period of 10 days.
Mother will return in 10 days.
They both have the same meaning, but the latter is more direct. If you’re stuck for material, research your topic further: there may be some relevant points or arguments that you haven’t included.
2 Be specific – replace phrases with words
It can be tempting to use more complex phrases, especially in academic writing. Yet often, using a single word will make your point more effectively:
The report emphasised the negative economic situation experienced by working families.
The report emphasised poverty amongst working families.
3 Avoid using the passive voice
Using the passive voice (where the object comes before the subject) can make your sentences needlessly unclear. Consider these two examples:
After the family had finished their meal, father paid the bill
Father paid the bill after the meal.
The second sentence has greater clarity. It’s also four words shorter. That may not sound like much, but imagine how easy sticking to your word limit would be if you could remove four words from every sentence!
4. Remove unnecessary intensifiers and qualifiers
Intensifiers and qualifiers are used with adverbs or adjectives to add meaning to descriptions. However, as the following example shows, sentences can be equally effective without them:
Her conclusions, though bluntly stated, were entirely accurate.
Her conclusions, though bluntly stated, were accurate.
5. Remove unnecessary “to be” verbs:
Look out for sentences and clauses beginning with “it is”, “this is”, or “there are” – these can often be shortened without altering the meaning:
There is a large crowd which is gathering outside the council building.
A large crowd is gathering outside the council building.
6. Avoid negative constructions
Writers often use negative constructions in the belief that it makes their writing sound more sophisticated:
His contribution to the campaign was not insignificant.
His contribution to the campaign was significant.
Yet, as we can see, using the positive construction adds clarity to the sentence.
7. Re-read and revise your work
When considering how to write concisely, revising your work is vital. So once you’ve finished your first draft, read every sentence carefully to see what you can delete without losing meaning. Every word, sentence, and paragraph should have a purpose – if they don’t, remove them. Remember, you may find that reading your work aloud makes this process easier.
8. Think about your argument
As you revise, ask yourself – what is the purpose of your writing? Also, in academic writing, each section of your work should support your argument. So, when you revise the first draft, review each paragraph critically and objectively. If it doesn’t support your argument, remove it. Deleting sections that you’ve worked hard on is tough, but your work will be stronger for it.
9. Think about your audience
When you write, think about your readers and consider what they need to know. For university assignments, imagine that your audience is composed of educated readers who are not experts on your subject. For example, you won’t need to explain what a literature review is, but you will need to explain the key findings from the literature. Similarly, your CV should include information that will help potential employers to evaluate your application.
Hopefully, this post has helped you understand how to write concisely. However, if you’re struggling with your word limit, contact Wordsmiths. Our professional editing service will streamline your written work, giving your message clarity and impact. If you want to see more posts from us, follow Wordsmiths on Instagram and Facebook. Or, subscribe via email to receive our latest news and blogs first.