Writing Tips: Shortening Sentences
  • 3-minute read
  • 13th August 2016

Writing Tips: Shortening Sentences

Brevity is famously the soul of wit, but it’s also highly valued in academia and the business world. Why? Because writing succinctly will help you get your point across clearly, making your work more impactful.

Perhaps the simplest way to make your writing more succinct is to shorten your sentences. Handily, we have a few top tips for doing exactly that!

1. Avoid Redundancy

“Redundancy” means using additional words that don’t add anything meaningful to a sentence. The phrase “twelve midnight,” for instance, means exactly the same thing as “midnight,” so the “twelve” is redundant.

It’s therefore a good idea to check your sentences for unnecessary words, as cutting these out will make a long sentences shorter. For example:

In actual fact, every single nurse worked from 3 am in the morning to twelve midnight.

Could be easily rewritten to say the same thing with fewer words:

In fact, every nurse worked from 3 am to midnight.

Must be why Florence Nightingale always looked so tired.
Must be why Florence Nightingale always looked so tired.

2. Break Up Long Sentences

Sometimes, long sentences are easier to follow if broken down into two or more statements. The following, for instance:

Making a sentence too long can be confusing because it is easy to lose track of what was said at the beginning, since they do not give the reader enough time to process what they are reading and by the end of the sentence you might have forgotten where it started!

That’s 51 words with barely a pause for breath. It would make sense to break it down into three shorter sentences:

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Making a sentence too long can be confusing. It is easy to lose track of what was said at the beginning, since they do not give the reader enough time to process what they are reading. By the end of the sentence you might have forgotten where it started!

3. Beware Padding Words

Padding words and phrases are things like “in my opinion” or “as a matter of fact,” which make a sentence longer but don’t usually add much meaning.

Saying “In my opinion, the political atmosphere is toxic,” for instance, means exactly the same as “The political atmosphere is toxic.” If you need to shorten a sentence, try looking for padding phrases you could remove.

4. Use the Active Voice

We’re often taught to avoid the active voice in academic writing, but sometimes using the passive voice makes sentences unwieldy. For example, the passive sentence:

The hypothesis was supported by the results.

Could be made a little simpler by using the active voice:

The results support the hypothesis.

5. A Final Thought…

Using only short sentences can make your writing lack fluency. To make your work engaging, the best thing to do is vary sentence length. You can then save shorter, punchier sentences for when you need to make a forceful point or ensure clarity.

Comments (1)
vivian
10th August 2020 at 21:52
Thanks for sharing, Really helped

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