The best way to Write Concisely


Whether or not you’re again within the workplace or nonetheless working remotely, you’ve in all probability discovered your self in a couple of assembly this 12 months that might have been the inspiration for a type of “I survived one other assembly that ought to have been an e-mail” memes. However you have got in all probability additionally learn a couple of e-mail this 12 months that ought to have been … a shorter e-mail.

When you have one thing difficult to say, you must all the time take the house you’ll want to say it. However when your prose is unnecessarily wordy and repetitive, you tax your readers by asking them to focus their consideration on determining what you’re saying reasonably than fascinated about what you’re saying.

In these circumstances, it’s time to edit.

Though it might appear counterintuitive, writing one thing lengthy typically takes much less time than writing one thing shorter. Living proof: The primary draft of this text was 500 phrases longer than the model you’re studying. Again in 1690, John Locke captured this problem in “An Essay Regarding Human Understanding,” of which he famous that “to admit the reality, I’m now too lazy, or too busy to make it shorter.”

It’s arduous to carve out sufficient time to write down successfully. However even whenever you solely have a couple of minutes to edit, you possibly can attempt these three methods to pare down your prose.

1. Delete phrases that don’t add something to your sentence.

Many office paperwork are weighed down by the next phrases: usually, mainly, really, form of, actually, just about, completely, primarily, fully, virtually, actually, and simply.

We’re (actually) so used to (simply) writing these phrases we could (really) discover that our writing sounds (completely) odd with out them. However (usually) when you get within the behavior of slicing these phrases, you (actually) gained’t miss them.

If certainly one of these phrases is crucial to the which means of your sentence, maintain it! But when not, let it go. To determine whether or not the phrase ought to keep or go, ask your self these questions:

  • What’s the phrase including to your sentence?
  • When you reduce it, does your sentence lose something?
  • When you maintain it, will you dilute your message?

Take into account this instance:

As a result of the pandemic fully strained our hospitals, we needed to primarily rethink the position of telehealth in our medical system.

To determine if I wish to maintain that “fully” and “primarily,” I can ask what these phrases are including to my sentence. Did the pandemic “fully” pressure our hospitals? Can they be extra strained than simply … strained? Is there a distinction between “reconsidering” and “primarily reconsidering”?

What if I wish to recommend that we did some reconsidering of the position of telehealth, however we didn’t rethink all the things? Does primarily assist make that time? Not likely. Saying we needed to rethink doesn’t indicate we needed to rethink all the things, so primarily doesn’t assist.

On this case, I can’t make the case for both the “fully” or the “primarily.” Somewhat than including to my sentence, they dilute my message by making it much less direct.

So, do you have to ever maintain a type of phrases? Let’s contemplate this instance:

After we wish to change suppliers, we usually rent an outdoor agency to vet our choices.

What are we making an attempt to attain with “usually” there? If we reduce it, can we lose something? In case your level is that we “usually” do that, however in some circumstances we don’t, then it’s possible you’ll wish to maintain the “usually.” However a greater resolution could also be to rewrite the sentence to make that time clearer:

After we wish to change suppliers, we rent an outdoor agency to vet our choices except certainly one of our companions has already vetted suppliers.

Backside line: Preserve the phrases you want; reduce or change the phrases you don’t want.

2. Reduce the overlap.

As a result of we work out what we expect by writing, we regularly repeat ourselves as we get nearer to the perfect model of our concepts.

Take into account this instance from my first draft of this text:

After we’re determining what we expect, we are inclined to repeat ourselves. Typically we are saying the identical factor once more as a result of we haven’t found out what we wish to say.  

Within the first sentence, I make my level. (We repeat ourselves.) Within the second sentence I elaborate on that time by including the causal hyperlink. (We repeat ourselves as a result of we haven’t found out what we wish to say.) After I revised, I used to be in a position to make that causal hyperlink into the primary sentence and reduce the repetition:

 As a result of we work out what we expect by writing, we regularly repeat ourselves in early drafts.  

The revised sentence is sort of half the size (16 phrases) as the unique overlapping sentences (29 phrases).

To search out overlapping sentences in your paperwork, attempt highlighting repetition as you edit. Right here’s an instance:

Our present staffing issues have been exacerbated by a mixture of low salaries and the rising price of housing. As a result of it has turn into dearer for workers to lease or purchase properties in our goal cities, we’re not in a position to appeal to workers with our present salaries, which ends up in staffing difficulties. (52 phrases)

Within the first sentence, the creator is making a declare: We are able to’t discover employees as a result of we aren’t paying individuals sufficient to stay in our space.

Within the second sentence, the creator repeats that declare however provides new particulars. Housing prices have gone up for renters and consumers in our goal cities.

If we mix the concepts from each sentences, we find yourself with this sentence:

Our present staffing issues have been exacerbated by a mixture of low salaries and the rising price of housing for renters and consumers in our goal cities. (27 phrases)

This new model is far shorter.

3. As a substitute of telling us what you’re going to do in a sentence, simply do it.

Take into account these two sentences:

I’ll now give you three steps we must always take to enhance our onboarding course of. (15 phrases)

We should always take three steps to enhance our onboarding course of. (10 phrases)

After we learn the primary sentence, our consideration is targeted on the author, who’s about to supply us one thing, reasonably than on the suggestions for the onboarding course of. It is smart that writers embrace this sort of commentary once they draft a doc. We’re fascinated about what we’re doing, and so we inform our readers what we’re doing.

However your readers don’t essentially have to comply with the journey you took whilst you have been drafting the doc. They only have to know the place you ended up.

Right here’s one other instance, based mostly on one of many sentences we checked out above:

I wish to level out that our present staffing issues have been exacerbated by a mixture of low salaries and the rising price of housing for renters and consumers in our goal cities.

Readers will know you’re stating the staffing issues since you’re the creator of the doc that mentions that staffing issues. You don’t lose necessary info should you reduce these first few phrases and begin with “Our present staffing issues…”

It’s not the top of the world should you use an pointless phrase at times, write the occasional overlapping sentence, or inform us what you’re doing in a sentence earlier than you do it. However the further phrases add up. When you make a behavior of utilizing these methods, your writing shall be shorter and sharper.



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