When you examine your writing to eliminate wordiness, your goal isn’t to create the shortest sentences possible; there is no “correct” length for a good sentence. If you need 30 words to make your point, use 30 words. But empty words slow sentences down and lessen their impact. If you can remove words without changing a sentence’s clarity, those words were deadwood.
Some wordy expressions are so common that writers use them without thinking. For example, you can write “A total of 12 employees attended the morning meeting,” and the sentence seems straightforward. But this sentence says the same thing in fewer words: “Twelve employees attended the morning meeting.”
Committee members will update the board on a quarterly basis.
Committee members will update the board quarterly.
Deadwood often results from writers using two words that convey the same idea:
He has no prior experience in real estate.
He has no experience in real estate.
We will work with our affiliate organizations.
We will work with our affiliates.
The Finance Department works cooperatively with Public Relations on the annual report.
The Finance Department works with Public Relations on the annual report.
Our company will be the first in the state of Arizona to implement this program.
Our company will be the first in Arizona to implement this program.
And so on, and so on
Wordiness also results when writers are so enthusiastic about getting their point across that they try too hard to cover all the bases, using every word that pops into their minds to boast about the benefits of their current projects. If you look at the following examples, you’ll notice that each pair of words separated by and has a slightly different meaning, but one is enough to convey the idea:
Management was positive and receptive about the new plan.
The training will enhance our knowledge and skill in business writing.
The public relations campaign is designed to inform and educate the public about our environmental programs.
You can make quick fixes by replacing these common wordy expressions with the suggested words:
For the purpose of > to, for
In order to > to
At the present time > now, currently
In the near future > soon
Because of the fact that > because
Due to the fact that > because
In the event that > if
In a position to > can
Next time: Wordy constructions