How to trim wordiness in your writing

Writers often use more words than they need. While wordiness or redundancy is not “wrong” in a grammatical sense, too many unnecessary words could slow readers down and distract them. Even worse, readers could get frustrated by your writing and move on to something else. 

Wordiness lurks in several places. You can find redundancy in adjectives and phrases that repeat information a noun already conveys. For example:

  • Join together = join
  • Advance plan = plan
  • General consensus = consensus
  • End result = result
  • She held in her hand a gift = She held a gift

Check your adjectives and adverbs. See whether you can condense compound modifiers into a single, more expressive word:

  • The baby cried loudly = the baby wailed
  • Large, opulent house = mansion
  • Loudly cheering fans = screaming fans
  • Exceedingly large bear = immense bear

And be on the lookout for ways to trim these qualifiers: “Very,” “really,” “actually,” “basically,” “definitely.”

Taken from Clarity is Key: Making Writing Clean and Concise, a Webinar replay by Lisa McLendon at Poynter NewsU.

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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager.


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