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Pop Quiz! To meet a page length requirement, you fill your writing with:

A) plenty of explanations, specific examples, and other evidence to develop your ideas,


B) plenty of words.

The answer, of course, is A. Option B, padding your writing with unnecessary, repetitious, or empty words, obscures the meaning of your writing. Wordiness in writing is like tossing chalk dust into the cookie batter because you have no flour, a filler that will be easily detectible at first bite.

Avoid wordiness by using these four strategies:

  1. Omit unnecessary words by using a who does what construction

    (Take out: it is, there is, there are, which, that, this, and self-references such as in my opinion, I think, it seems to me.)
    • Wordy: It was a night that was dark and freezing when the ship Titanic was struck by an iceberg.
    • Better: An iceberg struck the Titanic on a dark and freezing night.
  2. Avoid too many abstract and difficult words

    • Wordy: “Conservatism is the paradigm of essences toward which the phenomenology of the world is in continuing approximation” (William Buckley, Jr.).
    • Better: Conservativism is the belief in absolute values whose expression change with the times.
  3. Shorten sentences by rearranging ideas

    • Wordy: The president of the school board that presides over Dade County schools is accepting of the participation of students in alternative classes of their choice.
    • Better: The Dade County School Board president allows student to choose electives.
  4. Omit repetitious words and ideas

    • Wordy: The cookies are baking in the oven. The cookies are chocolate chip.
    • Concise: The chocolate chip cookies are baking in the oven.

Notice how the wordy phrases below can be reduced to one or two words:

along the lines of = like

as a matter of fact = in fact

at all times = always

at the present time = now, currently

at this point in time = now, currently

because of the fact that = because

by means of = by

due to the fact that = because

for the purpose of = for

for the reason that = because

have the ability to = be able to

in the nature of = like

in order to = to

in spite of the fact that = although, though

in the event that = if

in the final analysis = finally

in the neighborhood of = about

until such time as = until

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