BusinessBaseballWilliam Strunk’s Elements of Style has been the standard writing style guide since 1918. When it comes to writing concisely, Strunk says, 

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” 

In other words, according to Strunk, writing concisely is to “omit needless words.” 

It is possible that we have been taught inadvertently that more is better when it comes to writing. In school, we are required to write essays that have a specified word count. And let’s admit it, we often add needless words in order to meet that word count. I’d like to suggest that in writing, less is more, less is better

Why all this talk about writing concisely? What are the benefits to you? Whether you’re writing effective emails, letters, memos, or manuals, writing concisely will allow you to get your point across to your audience quickly. Your message will become clearer, more understandable and easier to read. In addition, your readers won’t get annoyed with your wordy message or need clarification.

Tips to write concisely:

1. Remove redundancy. Avoid saying the same thing twice. Example: 

  • Many uneducated citizens who have never attended school continue to vote for better schools.
  • Many uneducated citizens continue to vote for better schools.

2. Reduce phrases to words. Example: 

  • Citizens who knew what was going on voted him out of office. 
  • Knowledgeable citizens voted him out of office.

3. Omit gratuitous intensifiers and qualifiers. Avoid using words such as really, very, quite, extremely, severely when they are not necessary. Example: 

  • The salary increase is severely inadequate.
  • The salary increase is inadequate.

4. Erase expletive constructions. Expletive constructions begin with there is/are or it is. Example: 

  • There are twenty-five students who have already expressed a desire to attend the program next summer. 
  • Twenty-five students have already expressed a desire to attend the program next summer. 

5. Negate nominalizations. Nominalizations use a phrase where a single word suffices. (This is known as a nominalization, or smothering a verb.) When you see a “(verb) a/an (noun)” construction, convert the noun into a verb and replace the phrase with it. Example:

  • The report gave an analysis of the accident.
  • The report analyzed the accident.

6. Delete superfluous phrases. These phrases add nothing to the meaning of the sentence. Example:

  • All things considered, Connecticut's woodlands are in better shape now than ever before.
  • Connecticut's woodlands are in better shape now than ever before.

7. Avoid clichés. A cliché is a trite and overused expression or idea. Example:

  • He works like a dog to pay the bills.
  • He works long hours to pay the bills.

8. Elude euphemisms. A euphemism is a word or phrase that substitutes language the speaker or writer feels is too blunt or somehow offensive. Good writing tells the truth and tells it plain. Example:

  • They peace-keeping forces patrol the northern border of the enemy line.
  • The armies patrol the northern border of the enemy line.

There is a quote that says; “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”  Now this quote is attributed to so many different people that I would need to include an appendix to list them all.  Suffice it to say, my closing advice is to “take the time to write less (shorter letters) and say more!”

For more reading on writing less and saying more, here are links to a few additional resources:

Elements of Style

“8 Steps to More Concise Writing”  

“Writing Concise Sentences”

Leave us a message and a best time to contact you.

* Fields are required