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How to write concise sentences?

Posted by Manjusha Filed in English Writing

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words. In the same way, a paragraph should contain no unnecessary sentences. This does not mean that every sentence you write should be short and devoid of details. What it does mean is that every word you write should have something to tell. If it doesn’t, eliminate it because vigorous writing has to be concise. Here are some notes towards conciseness in writing.

Avoid saying the same thing twice.

Consider the following sentence.

  • Many illiterate people who cannot read or write will gladly attend school if they get an opportunity.

It should be rewritten as:

  • Many illiterate people will gladly attend school if they get an opportunity.

(The clause who cannot read or write is redundant (and hence needs to be removed) because that idea has already been expressed by the phrase illiterate people.)

More examples are given below.

  • I was offered a free gift by my company.

It should be rewritten as:

  • I was offered a gift by my company. (A gift is always free. What is the point in saying ‘a free gift’?)
  • The meeting will be held at 5 pm in the evening.

Rewrite as:

  • The meeting will be held at 5 pm.
  • A total of 10 boys participated in the program.

Rewrite as:

  • 10 boys participated in the program.
  • She is planning to write a biography of her life.

Write as:

  • She is planning to write her biography.

More examples are given below. Against each redundant phrase, their leaner, more appropriate versions are also given.

12 midnight (incorrect) / midnight (correct)
12 noon / noon
5 pm in the evening / 5 pm
Absolutely spectacular / spectacular
A person who is sincere / a sincere person
A total of 10 girls / 10 girls
Close proximity / proximity
Completely unanimous / unanimous
Consensus of opinion /consensus
Cooperate together / cooperate
Each and every / each
Enclosed herewith / enclosed
End result / result
Exactly the same / the same
Free gift / gift
He/she is one who . . . / he/she
In spite of the fact that / although
In the event that / if
One and the same / the same
A period of four days / four days
Personally, I think / feel / I think/feel
Refer back / refer
Repeat again / repeat
Return again / return
Revert back / revert
Shorter/longer in length s / shorter/longer
Small/large in size / small/large
Rectangular in shape / rectangular
Summarize briefly / summarize
Surrounded on all sides / surrounded
Surrounding circumstances / circumstances
The future to come / the future
There is no doubt but that / no doubt
We are in receipt of / we have received

Abbreviated Redundancies

Some people insist that it is redundant to say PIN Number because PIN means Personal Identification Number. They add that it is redundant to say ATM machine because ATM means Automated Teller Machine.

Other common abbreviated redundancies include CD disk – (which means Compact Disk Disk) and HIV Virus – (which means Human ImmunoDeficiency Virus Virus).

While it is possible to insist that these redundancies must be pruned, the truth is that they have become quite acceptable. So if you are used to saying ATM machine, you probably have no reason to correct yourself and say ATM instead.

Follow this link to learn more about concise writing.

Sections in this article

How to vary and improve your sentences - part I
How to vary and improve your sentences - part II
Numbers
Cardinal and ordinal numbers
Fractions and decimals
Numbers: differences between American and British usage

 

 

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