Style Watch: How to Construct Effective Sentences

Part II: Conciseness

wordy

In last week’s post, we discussed the importance of emphasizing important ideas in sentences. This week, we’re focusing on the other essential element in effective sentences: conciseness.

Conciseness is simply direct, succinct writing. Get to the point and use the most effective words to construct the most effective sentence. Although concise writing doesn’t always mean to use the fewest words, fewer words generally create tighter writing.  Take out the dead weight, meaning, omit any words that are not contributing something important, or are saying the same thing you’ve already said using different words.

Redundancy

Let’s consider the final sentence in the previous paragraph:

Take out the dead weight, meaning, omit any words that are not contributing something important, or are saying the same thing you’ve already said using different words.

The second part of this sentence could be reworded to use fewer words, as in the example below:

Take out the dead weight, meaning, omit any words that are not contributing something important, and avoid redundancy.

Saying the same thing you’ve already said using different words and avoid redundancy mean the same thing. The revised version is more direct, and the message is communicated more clearly. Fewer words = less confusion.

Redundant Phrases

It’s also common for writers to refer to a color or size, describing something as “blue in color” or “large in size.” In color and in size are unnecessary, as it’s a given that blue is a color and large is a size, right?

Here are a few more examples of redundant phrases:

Compulsory a Attendance during exam week is required.

The basic fundamental reason he won is he raised more money.

Eliminate Empty Words

Empty words contribute no essential information to a sentence. Some of the most common empty words in student essays are definitely, very, really, and literally.

The research definitely shows that meditation improves physical and mental health.

The paper was very interesting.  OR The paper was fascinating.

They were really trying hard to get the bill passed.

He was literally dying of his own germs.

Wordy Phrases

Many times, wordy phrases can be reduced to a word or two while retaining the meaning:

At the present time  Today our business has no deficit.  

The end result is death if a patient is not treated within twenty-four hours.

The final outcome will be difficult to determine.

Because of the fact that NASA has cut funding, our space missions are in jeopardy.

Replace Vague Words with Specific Words

Writers sometimes use too many vague words to express a concept when a more precise word would communicate more clearly.

Wordy: The governor talked about several of the merits of mandatory recycling in his speech.

Specific: The governor touted mandatory recycling in his speech.

Vague: The thing was to get as many volunteers as possible.

Specific: The objective was to get as many volunteers as possible.

As you can see, constructing effective sentences is one sure way of improving your writing immediately. Avoiding redundancy and eliminating wordiness will create clear, concise writing. Edit your sentences, keeping a close eye on each word, and ask yourself if each word is contributing to the meaning of the sentence. Concise writing is not always a matter of using fewer words, but using more effective words as well.

Practice Sentences

Make each of the sentences more clear and concise by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases:

1.    One of the major problems that is faced at this point in time is that here is world hunger.  

2.    At the present time, many different forms of hazing occur, such as various forms of physical abuse and also mental abuse.  

3.    I would call your attention to the fact that our former President, who was formerly the Governor of Arkansas, is basically a Southerner.

 

 (Some examples from The St. Martin’s Handbook)

 

 

 

 

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One comment on “Style Watch: How to Construct Effective Sentences

  1. Just a Little Background Noise says:

    I taught economy and effectiveness first and foremost – but I always had a ‘don’t be dull’ clause. I liked a little elegance as long as it conformed with the first two.

    Eliminating unnecessary words was always the toughest to get through.

    It’s ironic that to achieve the effects I’m looking for, I have to be-damn the economy. It’s fun though.

    I’m going to send this link to a few people; it’s good.

    Like

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