When a sentence has unnecessary words, it may not be perfectly understood. Let’s look at some rules that will help you create clear, concise sentences.
Rule 1: Avoid expressing the same idea twice.
Sometimes, a writer accidentally expresses the same idea twice. This is called being redundant. See the sentence below:
Not concise: It will happen at twelve midnight.
Since we know that midnight happens at twelve, the word twelve is unnecessary; it also makes the sentence longer. See the correction below:
Concise: It will happen at midnight.
Here is a list of some redundant phrases, along with the concise version of each phrase:
|Redundant Phrase||Concise Word or Phrase|
each and every
in the event of
exactly the same
Rule 2: Avoid weak modifiers.
Your writing will be more concise if you avoid weak modifying words. See the example below:
Weak: Joseph ate a really spicy sandwich.
Better: Joseph ate a spicy sandwich.
Notice that really did not change the type of sandwich that Joseph ate. The sentence has the same meaning when really is removed. However, the type of sandwich could be better described by providing more detail. See the example below:
More descriptive: Joseph ate a spicy, hot pepper sandwich.
Here are some common weak modifiers to avoid: really, very, severely, quite, extremely
Rule 3: Avoid “filler” words.
Sometimes we use words in our sentences that do not add meaning, called filler words. They “fill in” a sentence, but they do not make it better.
We use filler words when we speak out loud, but in writing, they make our ideas less concise. See the two sentences below:
She failed the test.
She totally failed the test.
In the second sentence, the word totally was added. Does it provide additional ideas or make the sentence stronger? No. Thus, it is an unnecessary filler word.
Here are a few of the many filler words/phrases to avoid: commonly, basically, slightly, only, just, maybe, absolutely, actually, kind of, seemed
Rule 4: Avoid phrases that do not add meaning.
Sometimes we use a phrase to make a sentence seem professional, but instead, it makes the sentence long and boring. See the following example:
At the present time, Rachel works night shift.
Does the phrase “at the present time” add meaning to the sentence? No. If Rachel works night shift, then it is happening now and the phrase is unnecessary.
Here are some meaningless phrases to avoid: all things considered, due to the fact that, for the most part, in the event that, what I mean to say is, it seems that, as a matter of fact.
Rule 5: Avoid phrases that distract from the main message of the sentence.
Occasionally, we start sentences with phrases that take focus away from the main message. See the example sentence below:
There are three kittens that need medical care.
The phrase, there are, distracts from the focus of the sentence, which is the subject: kittens, and the verb (action) phrase: need medical care. The sentence would be more concise without the phrase, there are. See below:
Three kittens need medical care.
These distracting phrases, called expletive phrases, include the following: it is, there is, and there are.
1. Which of the concise writing rules does this sentence not follow: We need to revert back to the way we used to advertise.
2. Which of the concise writing rules does this sentence not follow: Kim basically failed her driving test.
3. Which of the concise writing rules does this sentence not follow: I am extremely tired.
4. Which of the concise writing rules does this sentence not follow: There are many kids who are playing at the park.
5. What is the most concise correction of the following sentence: The company will serve lunch at twelve noon.
- The company will be serving lunch at twelve noon.
- The company will serve lunch at twelve, noon.
- The company will serve lunch at noon.
- The company serves lunch at twelve o’clock noon.
6. What is the most concise correction of the following sentence: It is the clerk who can cancel the check.
- It is the clerk who will cancel the check.
- The clerk can cancel the check.
- The clerk will be able to cancel the check.
- It is the clerk, who can cancel the check.
7. What is the most concise correction of the following sentence: Each and every child will receive a coat.
- Every child will receive a coat.
- Each and every child will be able to get a coat.
- Each, and every, child will receive a coat.
- Every single child will receive a coat.
8. What is the most concise correction of the following sentence: I am super excited about the ceremony tonight.
- I am totally excited about tonight’s ceremony.
- I am excited about the ceremony tonight.
- I am excited about the ceremony that will be happening tonight.
- I am super excited about this evening’s ceremony.
9. What is the most concise correction of the following sentence: Call this number to receive your free gift.
- Call, this number, to be able to receive your gift.
- To receive your free gift, call this number.
- Call this number so you can receive your free gift.
- Call this number to receive your gift.
Need More Help?
- Study other English Language Practice pages in the Resource Center.
- Visit the Online Tutoring Resources in the Resource Center.
- Contact your Instructor.
- If you still need help, Schedule a Tutor.