As Strunk and White tell us in The Elements of Style (4th ed.): Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences….This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. (23)
Strategies for Eliminating Wordiness
Use action verbs rather than forms of to be (e.g., is, are, was, were).
- Wordy: The reason that General Lee invaded Pennsylvania in June 1863 was to draw the Army of the Potomac away from Richmond.
REVISED: General Lee invaded Pennsylvania in June 1863 to draw the Army of the Potomac away from Richmond.
- Wordy: Tom Jones is a novel by Fielding that comically portrays English society in the eighteenth century.
REVISED: Fielding’s novel Tom Jones comically portrays English society in the eighteenth century.
Make the real subject the actual subject of the sentence; make the real verb the actual verb.
- Wordy: In Crew’s argument there are many indications of her misunderstanding of natural selection.
REVISED: Crew’s argument repeatedly demonstrates misunderstanding of natural selection.
Common Sources of Wordiness
- Redundancies: My personal opinion, at the present time, the basic essentials, connect together
- Unnecessary Phrases/Clauses: The reason why is that, this is a subject that, in spite of the fact that, due to the fact that, in the event that, because of the fact that, until such time as, by means of
Developing the ability to communicate in a clear, organized, and effective way is a central goal of a liberal arts education — and a prerequisite for a successful career. That’s why we established centers for writing and speaking.
Office / Department Name
Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center
Writing Center Director