How to write more concisely

Concise writing presents ideas clearly and does not use more words than are truly necessary. Conciseness is an important characteristic of academic writing, especially given how complex the subject matter frequently is.

Two of the biggest enemies of concise writing are inflated phrases and redundancies. It’s easy to think that using more complicated-sounding phrases will give your text a more academic feel, but mostly it just makes it harder to follow.

Using the below strategies will make your writing not only tighter, but also more effective.

Avoid inflated phrases

One of the simplest ways to make your writing more concise is to avoid “inflated” phrases that use several words where just one or two would be sufficient.

Examples of inflated sentences in theses that you can write more concise
Inflated phraseExampleMore concise alternativeExample
A majority ofA majority of respondents were single parents.MostMost respondents were single parents.
A sufficient amount/number ofA sufficient number of cases were selected. Enough Enough cases were selected
As a result ofThe interview was cancelled as a result of illness. Because of, due to The interview was cancelled due to illness.
At all timesThe laptop was kept in a locked office at all times. Always The laptop was always kept in a locked office.*
At the present time, at this point in timeThe IT sector is expanding at the present time. Now, currently The IT sector is currently expanding.*
By means ofThe surveys were distributed by means of email. By The surveys were distributed by email.
Draw attention toArticles often draw attention to the most problematic cases. Point out, point to Articles often point to the most problematic cases.
Due to the fact that, in light of the fact thatThis definition cannot be used due to the fact that it is too limiting. Because This definition cannot be used because it is too limiting.
For the purpose ofA spreadsheet was used for the purpose of recording the data. For A spreadsheet was used for recording the data.
For the reason thatConsultants were excluded for the reason that they are not regular staff. Because Consultants were excluded because they are not regular staff.
Have a tendency toEconomists have a tendency to favor policy reform. Tend to Economists tend to favor policy reform.
Have an impact onAge appears to have an impact on confidence. Affect Age appears to affect confidence.
Have the ability toThe scale has the ability to measure to the microgram. Be able to, can The scale can measure to the microgram.
In comparison toThe data showed that CEOs earn more in comparison to CFOs. Than The results showed that CEOs earn more than CFOs.
In light of the fact thatSaad’s theory is chosen in light of the fact that it is most relevant. Because Saad’s theory is chosen because it is most relevant.
In order toMore research is needed in order to fill this gap. To More research is needed to fill this gap.
In spite of the fact that, despite the fact thatIn spite of the fact that the sample size was limited, … Although Although the sample size was limited, …
In the event thatIn the event that a question was left blank, … If If a question was left blank, …
In the neighborhood ofThe factory produces in the neighborhood of 5,000 cars a week. About The factory produces about 5,000 cars a week.
In the year YYYYSales peaked in the year 2001. YYYY Sales peaked in 2001.
Is of the opinionWang (2009) is of the opinion that the model must be expanded. Thinks, believes Wang (2009) believes that the model must be expanded.
Make a calculation ofWe made a calculation of the average IQ. Calculate We calculated the average IQ.
Make decisions aboutMarketers must make decisions about their target audience. Decide on Marketers must decide on their target audience.
On two occasionsThe patients were tested on two occasions. Twice The patients were tested twice.
Small in sizeThe control group is relatively small in size. Small The control group is relatively small.
The people who are located inThe people who are located in rural areas had fewer symptoms. The people in The people in rural areas had fewer symptoms.
The reason whyThe reason why the population decreased is unknown. The reason The reason the population decreased is unknown.
Until such time asSmartphones will be used until such time as a new technology is developed. Until Smartphones will be used until a new technology is developed.
Whether or notThe goal was to identify whether or not gender made a difference. Whether The goal was to identify whether gender made a difference.

* If you replace a prepositional phrase with an adverb, that adverb may need to shift to another part of the sentence.

Avoid redundancies

Another easy way to make your writing more concise is to avoid redundancies, which occur when the same idea is being expressed twice. In most cases, the meaning of one word is clearly implied in another (for example, isn’t a summary by nature brief? Could collaboration be done in any other way but together? Isn’t an import by definition foreign?).

Examples of avoiding redundancies in theses
Redundant phraseImprovement
 Advance planning Planning
 Alternative choice Alternative
 And etcetera Etcetera
 Ask the question Ask
 Assemble together Assemble
 Basic fundamentals Fundamentals
 Biography/autobiography of her life Biography/autobiography
 Brief moment Moment
 Brief summary Summary
 Careful scrutiny Scrutiny
 Cash money Cash
 Classify into groups Classify
 Collaborate together Collaborate
 Combine together Combine
 Compete with each other Compete
 Completely filled Filled
 Cooperate together Cooperate
 Could possibly Could
 Crisis situation Crisis
 Current incumbent Incumbent
 Current trend Trend
 Depreciate in value Depreciate
 Different kinds Kinds
 Disappear from sight Disappear
 During the course of During
 Each and every Each
 Earlier in time Earlier
 Empty space Space
 Equal to each other Equal
 Estimated at about Estimate at
 Favorable approval Approval
 Fellow colleague Colleague
 Few in number Few
 Final conclusion Conclusion
 Final end End
 First and foremost Foremost
 First of all First
 Follow after Follow
 Foreign imports Imports
 Former graduate Graduate
 Free gift Gift
 Future plans Plans
 General public Public
 Grow in size Grow
 Had done previously Had done
 HIV virus HIV
 Input into Input
 Interdependent on each other Interdependent
 Introduced for the first time Introduced
 Joint collaboration Collaboration
 Knowledgeable experts Experts
 Later time Later
 Little baby Baby
 Live audience Audience
 May possibly May
 Meet together Meet
 Might possibly Might
 Mix together Mix
 Mutually interdependent Interdependent
 Mutual respect for each other Mutual respect
 New innovation Innovation
 New invention Invention
 None at all None
 Oral conversation Conversation
 Over exaggerate Exaggerate
 Passing fad Fad
 Past history History
 Past memories Memories
 Present time Present
 Previously listed above Previously listed
 Protest against Protest
 Recur again Recur
 Re-elect for another term Re-elect
 Regular routine Routine
 Reply back Reply
 Safe haven Haven
 Spell out in detail Spell out
 Splice together Splice
 Still persists Persists
 Sum total Total
 Surrounded on all sides Surrounded
 Tall in height Tall
 Two/2:00 pm in the afternoon Two/2:00 pm
 Two equal halves Halves
 True facts Facts
 Unexpected surprise Surprise
 Unintentional mistake Mistake
 Very unique Unique
 Visible to the eye Visible
 Warn in advance Warn

More about repetition and redundancy

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Sarah Vinz

Sarah's academic background includes a Master of Arts in English, a Master of International Affairs degree, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect formulation or wording and derives much satisfaction from helping students take their academic writing up a notch.

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