How to use fewer words when you write

Writers often use more words than they need. While it's not “wrong” in a grammatical sense, too many unnecessary words could slow readers down and distract them.

One place wordiness lurks is in modifiers. Here's how 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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