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University Writing Center

Editing For Conciseness

The time to begin revising for conciseness is when you have an acceptable first draft in hand—something that pretty much covers your topic and comes reasonably close to saying what you believe about it.  As you go over it, study each sentence to see what, without loss of meaning or emphasis, can be deleted. (Delete by crossing out, not erasing:  this saves time, and keeps a record of something you may want to reintroduce.)

Read each paragraph, preferably aloud, to see if each sentence supports the topic sentence or idea and clarifies the point you are making.  Leave in the concrete and specific details and examples that support your ideas (you may in fact be adding them) but cut out all the deadwood that chokes them:  extra words, empty or pretentious phrases, weak qualifiers, redundancies, negative constructions, wordy uses of the verb to be, and other extra verbs and verb phrases…

Extra words and empty words…basically, significant, situation, factor, aspect, manner, nature, ultimate, utilization, viable, virtually, vital…

Ex.:      The economic situation of Miss Moody was also a crucial factor in the formation of her character.

Better:  Anne Moody’s poverty also helped form her character.

Weak intensifiers and qualifiers…very, quite, rather, completely, definitely so…(Paradoxically, sentences are often more emphatic without intensifiers.)  Note:  Always avoid using intensifiers with “unique.”  Either something is unique—the only one of its kind—or it is not.  It can’t be very, quite, so, pretty, or fairly unique.

Circumlocutions…Roundabout ways of saying things enervate your prose and tire your reader…

Ex.:

  1. I came to the realization that                            I realized that
  2. She is of the opinion that                                  She thinks
  3. Concerning the matter of                                  About
  4. In the event that                                              If
  5. For the simple reason that                                 Because
  6. In all cases                                                       Always

Test yourself…

I made contact with

________________________

At that point in time

________________________

It is often the case that……

________________________

Redundancy…This term…refers to unnecessary repetition in the expression of ideas.  Unlike repetition, which often provides emphasis or coherence, redundancy can always be eliminated.

Ex.:            Any student can randomly sit anywhere.

Better:       Students could sit anywhere.  Or—Students could choose their seats at random.

BEWARE:   purple in color…round in shape…resulting effect…must necessarily…the reason why is because …free gift… Negative constructions…

Ex.:            After reading the second paragraph you aren’t left with an immediate reaction as to how the story will end.

Better:       The first two paragraphs create suspense.

Updated 1.12.2012