Concise prose is clear and compelling. It is easy to read, understand, and remember. Wordy and rambling text, on the other hand, can be frustrating and difficult to decipher. A reader should not have to wade through many words, carefully considering their interactions, in order to grasp a sentence’s meaning. Succinct and precise text flows well; it can be comprehended with a minimum of time, effort, and hassle.
If your prose is clear and concise, then readers are more likely to read it thoroughly, to understand it accurately, and to appreciate its message. Since the goal of writing is to communicate, you must obtain your audience’s attention and comprehension. Make the reader’s job easier and your job more successful by writing simply and smoothly.
Here are two specific, straightforward ways to clarify and condense your writing.
Use specific verbs. One simple way to make your writing clearer and more concise is to use more verbs. Prose that primarily relies on adjectives, nouns, or phrases instead of strong, precise verbs tends to be weak and cluttered. Verbs are active and efficient; if you use them whenever possible, then your writing will be vigorous and compelling.
Instead of writing what something is, write what it does. Instead of using two verbs that form a phrase, use one verb that is sufficiently specific. This shortens a sentence and emphasizes its meaning. If a noun or adjective has a verbal form, then use it (“had an influence on” –> “influenced”). This not only clarifies your writing but also strengthens it so that it communicates more powerfully.
- “This will make our hypothesis clearer.” –> “This will clarify our hypothesis.”
- “He became an outspoken critic of her work.” –> “He openly criticized her work.”
- “This is a positive for them.” –> “This benefits them.”
- “I have reached the conclusion that he has a tendency to lie.” –> “I have concluded that he tends to lie.”
- “She conducted research on beta particles.” –> “She researched beta particles.”
Use fewer prepositions. Often, a verb that requires a preposition (“go back,” “figure out”) can be replaced by a single, more specific verb (“return,” “determine”); this makes your text more concise and less awkward. Additionally, verbs that require prepositions are usually informal and, hence, less appropriate in academic documents.
Many prepositional phrases (“problems with his finances,” “a person in her employ”) can be transformed into adjectives, verbs, or more specific nouns (“his financial problems,” “her employee”). This simplifies the sentence structure so that it flows smoothly and is easier to read.
- “Talk about it in explicit terms.” –> “Explicitly address it.”
- “This was called into question by John.” –> “John questioned it.”
- “She worked hard in school.” –> “She studied diligently.”