Sunday, January 17, 2021

How to Reduce Wordy Sentences

Email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Zoom, and other forms of internet communities are the way people interact with each other.

Am I against using these new ways to communicate? Absolutely not. I use them, too, and find it quite enjoyable to interact with friends both old and new.

Am I tempted to shorten my messages and tweets with letters and numerals such as, "I want 2 C U 2 day?" Not really.

Because I am a writer and a grammar teacher, I try to condense my words into succinct phrases, clauses, and sentences that convey my exact meaning while using fewer words.

With practice, anyone can become a better writer. One of the best ways to improve one’s writing is to cut extraneous words from essays, emails, texts, or manuscripts.

It takes work to say what you mean, but anyone can do it well with practice.

Learn to:
  • repeat a word or phrase only when necessary.
  • avoid a careless or needless repetition of a thought in different words.
  • avoid clumsy, roundabout expressions.
  • eliminate needless words and choppy sentences.
  • avoid the double negative.
  • use adverbs sparingly.
  • choose the precise word to convey your meaning.
  • avoid clich├ęs.


It is quality, not quantity that counts in writing. Most good writing is not cluttered with superfluous words.

Here are three ways to improve your writing:

(1) Eliminate extra words and the unnecessary repetition of ideas. 

For example:

Wordy: The dog played with a small, little, round ball, which was made of rubber.

Better: The dog played with a little rubber ball.

(2) Reduce clauses to phrases and phrases to single words.

For example:

Wordy:  We decided that we would leave the meeting early.

Better: We decided to leave the meeting early.

Wordy: The illegal immigrants who had been captured were deported to Mexico.

Better: The captured illegal immigrants were deported to Mexico.

(3) Avoid trying to sound like Shakespeare. Write naturally. 

For example:

Wordy:  Illumination is required when the sun has sunk into the west and left the premises in darkness.

Better: Turn on the lights at dark.

What about you? Do you sometimes use more words that you really need? I know I do, so when I go back and proofread what I have written, I often find myself tapping the delete key.

Twitter is a great place for people to learn to practice reducing long, convoluted, rambling sentences into 280 characters.

Click here to download a FREE exercise to practice reducing longer sentences into shorter, concise statements.

Here are some related resources in my store that you might find useful for your students.

“It ain't whatcha write, it's the way atcha write it.”

                                                ------- Jack Kerouac

Thanks for reading,

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