The Third Deadly Sin


Concise writing is key to clear communication. Wordiness obscures your ideas andfrustrates your reader. Make your points succinctly.

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 1863was to draw the Army of the Potomac away from Richmond.
    REVISED: General Lee invaded Pennsylvania in June 1863 to draw theArmy of the Potomac away from Richmond.
  • Wordy: Tom Jones is a novel by Fielding that comically portrays Englishsociety in the eighteenth century.
    REVISED: Fielding’s novel Tom Jones comically portrays English societyin 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 hermisunderstanding of natural selection.
    REVISED: Crew’s argument repeatedly demonstrates misunderstandingof 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

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Writing Center

Kirner-Johnson 152
Find Your Voice
Written & Oral Communication

Find Your Voice

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.

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