• 3-minute read
  • 21st January 2016

How to Write Concisely

In academic writing, regardless of whether you’re a first-year undergraduate or doctoral candidate, writing concisely is vital for communicating clearly.

The same applies in other realms of life, from blogging to international politics. As such, concision is an important skill if you value the written word.

Why Be Succinct?

The advantages of writing concisely are many, though the most important factor in academic writing is that being concise will gain you marks because:

  1. Your work will be more focused
  2. Your reader will find it easier to follow your argument
  3. You won’t exceed the word limit on assignments

How to Be Succinct

There are numerous things you can do to make your written work concise. A few of these include:

1. Edit Ruthlessly

After you’ve written the first draft of your essay, go back through and remove any repetition, as well as anything not directly relevant to your topic. Each point you make should contribute to your overall argument.

2. Beware of Redundancy

Many sentences contain unnecessary redundancies. For example, since a ‘redundancy’ is by definition unnecessary, the previous sentence could have been written more concisely as ‘Many sentences contain redundancies.’

As well as unnecessary synonyms, you should watch out for sentences that include repeated words. For example:

The swimmer Michael Phelps is one of the most successful swimmers in history.

This would be better written as simply:

Michael Phelps is one of the most successful swimmers in history.

Similarly, redundant pairs are pairs of words that say the same thing (e.g., ‘each and every’ or ‘unexpected surprise’) and should be avoided.

3. Replace Phrases with Words

Long-winded phrases can often be cut down or replaced with a word or two. Be careful about using phrases containing terms like ‘which is’ or ‘who were’, as usually these aren’t necessary:

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Original – Bill Gates, who is the founder of Microsoft, told the journalist…

Edit – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, told the journalist…

It’s also best to avoid long modifying phrases when a single word could be used:

Original – People who suffer from short-sightedness may need corrective lenses.

Edit – Short-sighted people may need glasses.

Moreover, some commonly-used phrases can be replaced with a single word. These include:

  • Due to the fact that = Because
  • Provides an opportunity = Enables
  • At this point in time = Currently
  • In regard to = Concerning

4. Avoid the Passive Voice

The active voice is often more concise than the passive voice, which may involve moving the subject to the end of the sentence. For example:

The mat was sat on by the cat.

We could make this passive sentence more succinct by using the active voice:

The cat sat on the mat.

Comments (2)
Wanda Springer
14th May 2018 at 00:15
How could I find out how much would it cost me to have someone edit my Lit Review for a doctoral study?
    14th May 2018 at 14:50
    Hi, Wanda. We have a price calculator on our website where you can enter the number of words in your document and the services required: https://proofed.com.au/prices/ Alternatively, just drop our team an email at info@proofreadmydocument.com.au and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks.

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