‘If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out’ George Orwell
Brevity, or concision, is the ability to convey as much as possible with as few words as possible. This is the difference between strong and weak writing. If you imagine a sentence is a punch. Which punch would be stronger: the straight punch executed in perfect form or the swing which leaves you feeling tired for having attempted it?
Here is a few ways to improve brevity:
1) Cut Weasel Words
Weasel words are the ones that fill space but say nothing. They produce ambiguity.
Really, basically, actually, very, more, many most, virtually, up to, from, at least, seems, appears, looks, like, may, might, could, believe, possibly, perhaps, etc.
These are words that reduce the force of meaning. They hide, go the long way around, and make your argument and writing full of air. Reduce their use whenever you can. Be precise with what you mean to say and be ready to take a hit for what you say. Writing is also fighting.
And some weasel phrases:
The vast majority, studies suggest that, some would argue that, in fact, as a matter of fact, on the contrary, etc.
Weasel words tend to sneak in your writing and you always will find them in the first draft. Don’t hesitate to edit them out.
2) Axe Redundancy
Redundancy slows your reader down. It’s oxymoronic and cumbersome. Consider these sentences:
I love the blue colour in her eyes.
Blue colour is redundant. Your readers will understand that blue is a colour. So it should be: I love the blue in her eyes. Concise and sweet.
The reason I am reading is because I love writing.
You don’t need reason and because in the same sentence. It sounds much better like: I am reading because I love writing.
I love the blue sky. You don’t need blue in this sentence. Unless the sky is red, you do need to add its colour- it is common knowledge the sky is blue.
3) Transitional words and phrases
Transitional words can help connect ideas and make your writing easier to understand. Without them the text can come off as directionless.
However, nevertheless, but, in contrast, Furthermore, although, even though, again, likewise, as well, also, on the other hand, because, since, of course, naturally, previously, first/second/finally, next, then, later, etc.
Best writing does not require transitional words but if you experience difficulty moving from one sentence to another, or one paragraph to another, use them.
Adverbs aren’t as bad as many make them out to be, but you would do much better without them. Adverbs embellish the verbs, meaning if you choose a stronger verb, you won’t need them. Adverbs tell the reader how an action is done, strong verbs show what the action is and how it is done. Good writers always show, don’t tell.
Try to reduce the use of adverbs to a minimum if you can.
5) Skip ‘There is’ and ‘There are’.
Those two hide good verbs. Every time you see to be, is and are, try to discover the more rich and colorful verb they are trying to hide.
There are lots of people in the world who drink water before eating.
People around the world choose to drink water before eating.
The later sentence is more active and more descriptive and personal.
6) Watch out for ‘that’
That tends to sneak into sentences because of its grammatical necessity. Remember what your English teacher told you in school?
On the day that the sun rose, he climbed inside the car.
On the day the sun rose, he climbed inside the car.
Always keep it short and sweet. Cut out everything you don’t need to make your point. Describe more with less. Keep the garden tidy.
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