Almost everyone’s writing is “bulky,” to one degree or another — it uses more words (or syllables) than necessary. It takes a long time to say something short. Bulky writing is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s the default setting for human beings. Slimmed-down writing is a skill that takes years to develop.
But it’s worth developing, because efficient writing is generally clearer and simpler. Your readers will benefit, even if they don’t notice, even if you’re just sending emails. In the end, you benefit too.
And there are a few simple things you can do right now to get you started. Below are some common examples of bulky writing, each with a suggested fix.
Of course, you can’t apply these “fixes” blindly — sometimes longer is better, and sometimes streamlining isn’t helpful, so use your common sense. But in my experience, these fixes are useful more often than not.
Before: We created this plan in order to help our employees.
After: We created this plan to help our employees.
Occasionally “in order to” is necessary, but only occasionally.
Before: Please note that the restrooms are closed.
After: The restrooms are closed.
In general, if you want to “note” something, or “it is important to note” something, or “it is interesting to note” something, you can save everybody a little time and just say the thing.
Before: Children and adults should use the red and blue doors, respectively.
After: Children should use the red doors, and adults should use the blue doors.
Okay, this one isn’t about slimming down, because the “after” version is slightly longer — but it’s also a bit clearer. (As I said, sometimes longer is better.) Whenever you start to type “respectively,” ask yourself if it might be simpler for your reader if you just write it out.
Before: We should submit a request for more funding.
After: We should request more funding.
If you’re using a whole phrase to describe an action, it can often be reduced to a simple verb. This problem is rampant in corporate, government, and academic writing. Other examples: “took action” can be “acted,” “carries out innovation” can be “innovates,” and “attended a meeting with” can be “met with.” Again, the longer version is sometimes appropriate, but you should use it when it’s necessary, not merely by default.
The rest of the examples are pretty self-explanatory, I think.
Before: We cannot begin at this point in time.
After: We cannot begin now. [OR: We cannot begin right now.]
Before: As a consequence of the audit finding, he commissioned a report.
After: Because of the audit finding, he commissioned a report.
Before: Our department has increased in size.
After: Our department has grown.
Before: We should utilize this discovery. [OR: We should make use of this discovery.]
After: We should use this discovery.
Before: I will attempt to prove this statement.
After: I will try to prove this statement.
Before: With this feature, the client is able to change the color.
After: With this feature, the client can change the color.
Before: Now we will decide whether or not we should proceed.
After: Now we will decide whether we should proceed.
Before: There are many resources available to us.
After: Many resources are available to us. [OR: We have many resources.]
Anyone want to
initiate a discussion about discuss any of these?