WEDNESDAY WRITING TIP: “CLUTTER” (PT 3)

Dear Master’s Programs student,

Today’s entry concludes our series on cleaning up the clutter from our writing.  (If you missed the last two tips, take a look at the blog entry for conceptual tips for eliminating wordiness and practical tips for eliminating wordiness.)

Below you’ll find four specific tips to reduce unnecessary words.

  1. Eliminate the phrases “there are,” “there is,” and  “it is” from the beginnings of your sentences. 

Wordy: There is a delicious watermelon that Barkley really wanted to eat.
Better:  Barkley really wants to eat the delicious watermelon.clutter-3

Wordy: It is imperative that student services professionals take their advisees’ socioeconomic status into consideration.
Better: Student services professionals must consider their advisees’ socioeconomic status.

  1. Replace “-tion” and “-sion” words with verbs.

Wordy: Tywin held an intervention to prevent his family’s dissolution.
Better: Tywin intervened to prevent his family’s dissolution.

Wordy: King Joffrey acted in violation of his promise not to execute Ned Stark.

Better: King Joffrey violated his promise not to execute Ned Stark.

  1. Remove or replace unneeded prepositional phrases.

Wordy: The major objective of this paper is to explore the perceived influence of peer counseling on academic and on non-academic aspects of undergraduate life over the period in which respondents to the survey

Better: This paper explores peer counseling’s influence on academic and non-academic aspects of undergraduate life.
Wordy: We couldn’t come up with the right answer on our own, so we tried to make up something that seemed reasonable.  Eventually we called off the effort altogether.

Better: We couldn’t determine the right answer on our own, so we tried to inventsomething reasonable.  Eventually we cancelled the effort altogether.

  1. Replace passive verbs with active verbs.

Wordy: Lady Sybil’s life was taken by eclampsia.
Better: Eclampsia took Lady Sybil’s life.
Wordy: The very notion was found to be horrifying to the dowager countess.
Better: The dowager countess found very notion horrifying.

Also better: The very notion horrified the dowager countess.

Happy (unwordy) writing!

James

PS: Click here for a list of wordy phrases and things with which to replace them.

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