Be Concise (Workout A)

concise sentence states its meaning directly and clearly with no extra words. Every word should contribute to the meaning of the sentence.

In this workout, you will practice three strategies for eliminating wordiness and making concise sentences.

  • Avoid extra “to be” verbs
  • Avoid sentences that begin with “There are” and “It is”
  • Avoid empty phrases

Let’s get started.

Avoid extra “to be” Verbs

Example:

Students should be required by the teachers to complete their homework.
Teachers should require students to complete their homework.

Problem:

Passive voice uses extra words and hides the central action and message of the sentence.

Fix the problem:

Identify and focus on the subject and main action

In the revised sentence, the wordy phrase “should be required by” is replaced with the direct and clear “should require” for a more concise expression.

Avoid Sentences that begin with “There are” and “It is”

Example:

It is necessary for the teacher to remind us when the essay is due.
The teacher needs to remind us when the essay is due.

Problem:

The use of “It is” has forced the writer to use the longer opening “It is necessary for” before we even get to the main meaning of the sentence. You can almost always rewrite a sentence that begins with “It is” or “There are” and it will naturally make the sentence more concise.

Fix the problem:

Start with the subject of the sentence, and determine the relevant verb for meaning. In this case, “to need” is used; you could also use must or could. With specific words, you can shape the meaning of the sentence so it is more precise.

Here’s another example:

There are three solutions that researchers would like to investigate.
Researchers would like to investigate three solutions.
Problem:

When a sentence begins with “There are”, it has extra words that limit rather than add to the meaning. This sentence focuses on announcing three solutions rather than opening the possibility to discuss them.

Fix the problem:

Rewrite the sentence to take out the “There are” phrasing. This will make the main meaning more direct. The revised sentence invites us to read more about these solutions.

Avoid empty phrases

Example:

In view of the fact that students depend on social media, they must learn to use it responsibly.
Students must learn to use social media responsibly because they depend on it.
Problem:

Empty opening phrases add extra words and may obscure the real meaning. In this case, the empty opening phrase makes it difficult to show the specific cause and effect relationship between the two ideas.

Fix the problem:

Select the best linking word to illustrate the relationship between the ideas. In this case, we used because.

Be Concise (Sample Answers)
  1. The student council published the articles in the magazine
    • To publish is the main action. The subject is the student council.
  2. The students protested increasing tuition fees at the rally.
    • The specific action is highlighted for more direct effect.
  3. Students should learn how to edit their writing for several reasons. OR Students should learn how to edit their writing because …. (provide good content).
    • Main idea of the sentence is emphasized.
  4. Students often acquire at lot of debt at University.
    • Main idea of the sentence is emphasized.

Download Sample Answers

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