Wordiness: Word Types to Avoid for Concise Writing
  • 4-minute read
  • 21st January 2020

Wordiness: Word Types to Avoid for Concise Writing

Being concise in your writing will make your work clearer and easier to read. As such, it’s important to be able to spot wordiness while editing your work so you can fix it. But what is wordiness, exactly? And what kind of words should you watch out for? Read on to find out more!

What Is Wordiness?

Wordiness is using more words than necessary to say something. And if you find yourself using lots of long sentences, or struggling to stay within the word limit on assignments, you may have a wordiness problem!

To make your writing easier to read, you may want to have your documents proofread, as an expert editor will remove unnecessary words to improve the flow of the writing. But there are also some common word types you may want to watch out for when editing your own work for wordiness.

 Word Types to Avoid for Concise Writing

In the rest of this post, we’ll look at words you should consider cutting when editing your written work for wordiness. These include…

1. Attitude Markers

Attitude markers (e.g., “basically” or “in my opinion”) tell us about an author’s point of view or attitude. Most of the time, they can be removed without losing anything meaningful from a sentence. For example:

The results clearly show that people definitely overuse filler words.

Here, the author has used the words “clearly” and “definitely” to emphasize their point. However, we can also cut the attitude markers:

The results show that people overuse filler words.

This means exactly the same as the first sentence. In formal writing, it is therefore better to cut these terms to ensure clarity and concision.

You may find similar issues with other discourse markers, such as “in fact” or “on the one/other hand.” The key is to consider whether they are necessary for the point you’re making. If not, it may be wise to cut them.

2. Additive Terms

Additive terms are words like “however” or “in addition,” which usually link two sentences or show how they are related to one another. As with discourse markers, these can be useful in some cases, but you might want to cut a few out (or vary them a little) if you use them a lot.

3. Qualifiers and Intensifiers

We use some terms to either qualify or intensify a sentence. For instance:

The scandal was probably a factor in his resignation.

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His choice of hat was very controversial.

In the first sentence above, “probably” is a qualifier (i.e., it suggests we are uncertain). In the second, “very” is an intensifier (i.e., it strengthens the claim).

Qualifying a sentence can be important (e.g., for not overgeneralizing an argument). But many writers do it as a matter of habit. Both the sentences above, for instance, would work without the modifiers:

The scandal was a factor in his resignation.

His choice of hat was controversial.

In the first sentence, removing “probably” also strengthens the claim. So as well as helping you avoid wordiness, cutting unnecessary qualifiers can make your writing more forceful, leaving a stronger impression on the reader.

4. Redundancies

A term is “redundant” when it repeats something unnecessarily. Famous examples of redundancies occur in phrases like “twelve midnight” (since midnight is always twelve o’clock) or “past history” (since history is always in the past). These should always be avoided in formal writing.

5. Vague Terms of Size or Time

Terms that specify the time something happened or the size of something can be vital for clarity in writing. Sometimes, though, the words we use for this are unnecessary or too vague. For instance:

A large number of the students are currently studying for exams.

Here, we have a vague quantity (“a large number”) and a redundant temporal term (“currently”). To ensure clarity and concision, it would be better to give a specific number and cut the filler term:

Sixty percent of the students are studying for exams.

It’s not that the original sentence was incorrect; rather, it’s a case of using modifying terms that add something more meaningful to the sentence.

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