When a sentence has unnecessary words, it may not be perfectly understood. It is important in professional situations to be concise. Let’s review some rules and learn an additional rule to help you express clear, concise ideas.
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: The end result of this merger is a stronger, more diverse team.
Since we know that a result happens at the end of something, the word end is unnecessary; it also makes the sentence longer. See the correction below:
Concise: The result of this merger is a stronger, more diverse team.
Here is a list of some redundant phrases, along with the concise version of each phrase:
Concise Word or Phrase
each and every
in the event that
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: I am really excited about this new product.
Better: I am excited about this new product.
Notice that really did not change the emotion felt about the new product. The sentence has the same meaning when really is removed. However, the emotion might be better understood if specific detail were added. See the example below:
More descriptive: I am excited about this new health insurance product.
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:
Sentence with filler word: They basically missed the deadline.
Concise sentence: They missed the deadline.
In the second sentence, the word basically 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, totally, 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 several spelling errors in this memo.
The phrase, there are, distracts from the focus of the sentence, which is the memo. The sentence would be more concise without the phrase, there are. See the correction below:
This memo has several spelling errors.
These distracting phrases, called expletive phrases, are it is, there is, there are, and there was.
Rule 6: Use helping verbs only when necessary.
Sometimes we use too many verbs to express an idea. Helping verbs like to be, have, has, and had are necessary when we use the perfect tense. However, in many cases, the simple verb form is clearer and more concise.
See the examples below (verbs are bolded):
Too Many Verbs
I have developed a filing system that strengthened data organization.
I introduced a professional development program that helped employees to strengthen their skills.
I created a medical charting app that has saved nurses time and allowed them to focus more on patient care.
I developed a filing system that strengthened data organization.
I introduced a professional development program that strengthens employees’ skills.
I created a medical charting app that saves nurses time and allows more focus on patient care.
1. Which of the rules for writing concisely should be applied to the following sentence?:
In the event that we select your shipping company, we will call you.
2. Which of the rules for writing concisely should be applied to the following sentence?:
The meeting was quite long.
3. Which of the rules for writing concisely should be applied to the following sentence?:
What I mean to say is that I am looking for someone with more experience.
4. Which of the rules for writing concisely should be applied to the following sentence?:
It is the hiring manager who schedules the interviews.
5. Which of the rules for writing concisely should be applied to the following sentence?:
I actually created the website for my restaurant.
6. Which of the rules for writing concisely should be applied to the following sentence?:
I invented a system that is shortening the time it takes to package our product.
7. Which of the rules for writing concisely should be applied to the following sentence?:
Each and every employee will get a raise.(
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