Concise writing is important in academic writing, as it makes your essays clearer. It is crucial to learn how to write concisely, as this can impact the quality of your work.
We will look at the different aspects of concise writing in this guide.
Definition: Concise writing
Concise writing means that you choose your words deliberately and precisely. You have to eliminate deadwood and pass your message across efficiently.
With concise writing, you will be able to get your message across in a way that your readers can easily comprehend.
Look at the following examples of poorly structured sentences:
Here are the same sentences in concise writing:
Why does concise writing matter?
Concise writing makes your essays clearer. It makes you get to the point faster and in a way, your audience can easily comprehend.
Avoid redundant words
Concise writing involves eliminating redundant words like tautologies. These words only take up unnecessary space in your academic papers, as they repeat the same information.
By removing redundant words from your writing, you will be able to get the message across faster and will simplify your sentences. Here are some examples:
Strengthen weak adjectives
Concise writing will also strengthen weak adjectives in your writing, as it requires you to use fewer words to describe nouns.
To strengthen your adjectives, you should try to spot places where you use two words to describe a noun. For example:
Remove vague nouns
We commonly use vague nouns when speaking or in casual writing. However, in academic writing, these nouns should be avoided as they present ambiguity and a lack of clarity.
For concise writing, all the nouns you use in your paper should move your point forward. For example:
Some vague nouns that commonly lead to wordiness include:
Eliminate filler words
Filler words do not add any meaning or value to a sentence and only help to take up space.
These words are commonly used in speech as they give the speaker time to articulate their ideas. Still, you should avoid filler words in speech and all forms of writing. This is because they can distract readers and listeners from your core message.
Here are some filler words you should avoid for concise writing:
Construct active sentences
Using an active voice is essential in concise writing. Passive voice tends to be wordy and conveys messages in a weak manner.
When sentences are written in the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. In passive voice, the subject receives the action.
You can use passive voice in specific situations. For example, if you want to emphasize the action or be tactful by not naming the actor, you can use passive voice.
How to write concisely
Concise writing does not mean that you should sound brief. You can use the following tips to make your sentences more concise while maintaining your writing style.
Identify your message
The first step is to identify your message and keep in mind your goals in the thesis.
This information will help you figure out the parts of the paper that are necessary to prove your point. Some paragraphs and sentences may address the argument directly, while others may cover the counterarguments.4
Eliminate extra words
Once you write a sentence or paragraph that passes your message clearly, you should go through the writing to eliminate extra words.
You can remove:
- Redundant pairs
- Unnecessary qualifiers
- Prepositional phrases
- Unnecessary modifiers
- Unnecessary negatives
Lots of phrases can also be replaced with a single word, and this can improve conciseness in your writing. Here are some examples:
Assess your tone
The tone you use in writing should be determined by the emotional state of your reader.
If you are writing about an exciting finding or story, you can use exclamation marks to convey the mood. Reading some sentences out loud will also help you find places that sound awkward.
If the article or essay has a positive mood, you can use positive sentences more than negatives. Here is an example:
The best way to write concisely is to:
- Avoid redundant words
- Strengthen weak adjectives
- Remove vague nouns
- Eliminate filler words
Using the active voice also helps with concise writing.
Redundancy is when we use two or more words that mean the same thing together. For concise writing, you have to avoid redundancy.6
By writing concisely, you will be able to get to your point in a way that your audience can easily comprehend. If your audience finds it hard to follow your writing, they can lose interest in the essay.7
Concise writing does not mean you have to use short sentences. You should have a healthy mix of long and short sentences, but make sure you avoid wordiness.8
1 Enago Academy. “Avoiding Redundancy and Improving Readability in Research Writing.” November 12, 2021. https://www.enago.com/academy/avoiding-redundancy-and-improving-readability-in-research-writing/.
2 The Writer’s Handbook. “Avoid using vague nouns.” The Writing Center – University of Wisconsin – Madison. Accessed November 18, 2022. https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/style/ccs_vaguenouns/.
3 Wordvice HJ. “Avoid Fillers and Unnecessary Words to Improve Your Writing.” Wordvice. November 02, 2022. https://blog.wordvice.com/avoid-fillers-powerful-writing/.
4 The Writing Center. “Writing Concisely.” The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Accessed November 18, 2022. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conciseness-handout/.
5 Purdue Online Writing Lab. “Eliminating Words.” Purdue University. Accessed November 18, 2022. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/conciseness/eliminating_words.html.
6 Patterson, Amanda. “19 Examples of Redundancy.” Writers write. November 17, 2014. https://www.writerswrite.co.za/19-examples-of-redundancy/.
7 Huang. “STEM Style Guide – Technical Communication Program.” Standford Engeneering. Accessed November 18, 2022. https://stanford.edu/class/ee267/WIM/writing_style_guide.pdf.
8 MasterClass. “7 Tips for Clear and Concise Writing.” August 23, 2021. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/tips-for-clear-and-concise-writing.