Writing is considered to be concise when no unnecessary words are used to communicate meaning. On the contrary, wordiness refers to the use of unnecessary words to express ideas that can be expressed with fewer words. Wordiness should be avoided in academic writing, and there are several strategies that can help student-writers deal with it:
- When two words in a pair have roughly the same meaning, one should be chosen and the other eliminated. Some common examples of wordy pairs are as follows: always and forever, full and complete, whole entire, each and every, first and foremost, true and accurate, hopes and dreams, g.,
RIGHT: Every shop in town was decorated with flowers.
WRONG: Each and every shop in town was decorated with flowers.
- The use of unnecessary qualifiers in the sentence should be avoided. Some examples of wordy qualifiers are as follows: actually, basically, definitely, extremely, kind of, practically, probably, really, somewhat, e.g.,
RIGHT: They found the journey
WRONG: They found the journey really tiring.
- Prepositional phrases which begin with at, in, of, for, over, or through should be reduced where possible if there is a more efficient way to express the meaning, e.g.,
RIGHT: The wide-ranging references in this talk assure the audience that the author is intelligent and well-read.
WRONG: The obvious effect of such a range of reference is to assure the audience of the author’s range of learning and intellect.
- The use of unnecessary modifiers when the meaning of a word implies its modifier should be avoided, e.g.,
RIGHT: They did not anticipate any problems during the construction.
WRONG: They did not anticipate any problems in advance during the construction.
- Overly long phrases should be replaced with single words where possible. Some examples of wordy phrases are as follows: due to the fact that, in the light of the fact that, given the fact that, despite the fact that, in the event that, under circumstances in which,g.,
RIGHT: Although he worked very hard, he did not manage to pass the exam.
WRONG: Despite the fact that he worked very hard, he did not manage to pass the exam.
For more information on wordiness, please refer to the following resources:
- http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/revising/wordiness/ (Writing Advice: University of Toronto)
- https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/572/01/ (Purdue Online Writing Lab OWL)
- https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CCS_wordyphrases.html (The Writing Centre: The University of Wisconsin-Madison)