Writing Concisely (Part 4)

by Ashley Smith

Just as almost everyone is guilty of the occasional redundancy, so too are most people guilty of using wordy phrases and modifiers in their communication. These extra words are often overlooked in colloquial speech; however, they should be avoided as much as possible in writing.

A wordy phrase is any clause or part of a sentence that can be reduced to a shorter clause or to one word (see one set of examples here: 30 Wordy Phrases Beginning with “In”). A modifier is a word or phrase that describes another and can often be deleted without affecting the sentence meaning, such as very, extremely, early, etc. Eliminating wordy phrases and modifiers will keep your business correspondence clear, concise, and professional.

Take a look at these wordy sentences and their revisions below:

Wordy: The doctor, who was a practitioner of both Western and Oriental medicine, was extremely shocked upon hearing that his patient had died.
Revision: The doctor, a practitioner of Western and Oriental medicine, was shocked to hear his patient had died.

Wordy: The people sitting at the back of the auditorium could not hear at all what the speaker was saying.
Revision: Those seated in the back could not hear what the speaker was saying.

Wordy: The CEO immediately laid off fifty employees in an effort to save the company from an almost certain bankruptcy.
Revision: The CEO laid off fifty employees to try to save the company from bankruptcy.

Wordy: There are hundreds of books on how to really succeed in business.
Revision: Hundreds of books discuss how to succeed in business.

Wordy: The person who gave the first presentation looked very nervous.
Revision: The first presenter looked nervous.

Wordy: The founder of the start-up knew she was  in a situation in which the company would surely fail if she did not make certain changes.
Revision: The start-up’s founder knew she had to make changes to keep the company from failing.


Reviewing these sentences will help you recognize the kinds of words and phrases you can eliminate from your writing to keep it concise. Our revisions cut the word count in these sentences between 22 and 50 percent. When practiced over the course of a whole document, reductions like these can make a significant difference in both word and page count, saving printing resources and your readers’ time.

To write concisely, don’t forget to also avoid redundancies, use more verbs, and limit your use of the passive voice.  Check out the rest of our Writing Concisely series on these topics, if you haven’t already. And if after reading these posts you would like additional help, don’t hesitate to contact The Scribe Source team. We’re here to help you communicate more effectively and get your ideas noticed!


Writing Concisely (Part 1)

Writing Concisely (Part 2): Fewer Nouns and a Lot More Action

Writing Concisely (Part 3): Avoid Redundancies in Your Writing

Writing Concisely (Part 4): Eliminate Wordy Phrases and Modifiers