Write shorter sentences to clarify your dissertation

Writing that is concise presents ideas and information 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 phrase Example More concise alternative Example
A majority of A majority of respondents were single parents. Most Most respondents were single parents.
A sufficient amount/number of A sufficient number of cases were selected.  Enough  Enough cases were selected
As a result of The interview was cancelled as a result of illness.  Because of, due to  The interview was cancelled due to illness.
At all times The 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 time The IT sector is expanding at the present time.  Now, currently  The IT sector is currently expanding.*
By means of The surveys were distributed by means of email.  By  The surveys were distributed by email.
Draw attention to Articles 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 that This 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 of A spreadsheet was used for the purpose of recording the data.  For  A spreadsheet was used for recording the data.
For the reason that Consultants were excluded for the reason that they are not regular staff.  Because  Consultants were excluded because they are not regular staff.
Have a tendency to Economists have a tendency to favor policy reform.  Tend to  Economists tend to favor policy reform.
Have an impact on Age appears to have an impact on confidence.  Affect  Age appears to affect confidence.
Have the ability to The scale has the ability to measure to the microgram.  Be able to, can  The scale can measure to the microgram.
In comparison to The 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 that Saad’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 to More 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 that In spite of the fact that the sample size was limited, …  Although  Although the sample size was limited, …
In the event that In the event that a question was left blank, …  If  If a question was left blank, …
In the neighborhood of The factory produces in the neighborhood of 5,000 cars a week.  About  The factory produces about 5,000 cars a week.
In the year YYYY Sales peaked in the year 2001.  YYYY  Sales peaked in 2001.
Is of the opinion Wang (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 of We made a calculation of the average IQ.  Calculate  We calculated the average IQ.
Make decisions about Marketers must make decisions about their target audience.  Decide on  Marketers must decide on their target audience.
On two occasions The patients were tested on two occasions.  Twice  The patients were tested twice.
Small in size The control group is relatively small in size.  Small  The control group is relatively small.
The people who are located in The people who are located in rural areas had fewer symptoms.  The people in  The people in rural areas had fewer symptoms.
The reason why The reason why the population decreased is unknown.  The reason  The reason the population decreased is unknown.
Until such time as Smartphones 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 not The 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 phrase Improvement
 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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