Reduce Wordiness

With your content carefully selected, you should be well on your way to having a concise message. But there is still more you can do to make your message as concise as possible. The second step shifts focus from the big picture to the small details. Here, you might only delete a word or two at a time. But even these small edits can make a big difference when they are done consistently.

Trim Word Count at the Sentence Level

Here are several tactics you can use to identify and eliminate wordiness at the sentence level.

Flip Prepositional Phrases

Prepositions (those little words that express relationships between other words) can be a big waste of space when they are overused. “Flipping” prepositional phrases can reduce some wordiness. Look for phrases with the words at, by, during, in, for, from, on, of, and through. Then see if you reverse or flip the order to squeeze out the preposition. Of course you won’t be able to flip all of them, but even flipping a few can reduce your word count.

Wordy: The firing of Campbell Jeffries was due to his violation of a policy of the company that addressed workplace bullying.

Concise: Campbell Jeffries was fired because he violated the company’s workplace bullying policy.

Eliminate Redundant Pairs

Redundant pairs are words that are used together, but both mean the same thing. For instance, an “advance planning” is redundant because all planning occurs in advance. Likewise, “end result” is redundant because results come at the end of a process. Even the expression “whether or not” is a bit redundant because “whether,” by definition, includes the possibility of “or not.”

Wordy: Each and every volunteer at our company charity event will receive a free T-shirt.

Concise: Every volunteer at our company charity event will receive a free T-shirt.

Delete Repetition

If you see a string of words (or a string of sentences) that have similar meanings, you may be able to reduce wordiness by eliminating the repeats. Repetition can appear in a list of adjectives. Or it might appear when something is said two times in a row, but just in slightly different ways.

Wordy: Company B’s proposal was better because its design was more cutting-edge and less dated than the other designs.

Concise: Company B’s proposal was better because its design was more cutting-edge than the other designs.

Replace Phrases with a Single Word

There are numerous phrases we commonly use that don’t add any more meaning than a single word. For instance, “due to the fact that” can be replaced with “because.” “Until such time as” can be replaced by “until.” “In the event that” can be replaced with “if.” Look for these and other common phrases and then replace them with a single word.

Wordy: Please make a payment in the amount of $187 no later than Friday.

Concise: Please pay $187 by Friday.

Delete Unnecessary Qualifiers

Qualifiers are words that are added to other words to alter their impact or certainty. Qualifiers could include words lessen impact (“somewhat,” “kind of,” “pretty much”) or introduce some doubt (“might,” “sometimes,” “could”). They also could amplify impact of (“very,” “really,” “definitely”).

Sometimes qualifiers are necessary. For instance, when you say a set of conditions might cause a problem, it is different from saying that set of conditions will cause a problem. In a case like this, the qualifier is necessary and you should keep it.

But other times, qualifiers aren’t necessary. Some qualifiers that commonly are unnecessary are actually, basically, extremely, kind of, practically, probably, really, and very.

Wordy: I am actually going to call him a little later this afternoon to schedule a meeting.

Concise: I am going to call him this afternoon to schedule a meeting.

Strike Tentative Language

There is a kind of qualifier that deserves special attention. If you add little phrases that raise doubts—such as “I think,” “I feel,” and “I believe”—you are using tentative language. In addition to being wordy, tentative language can also undercut the confidence people have in you and your ideas. It also is a bigger problem for women than men. So unless you have a good reason for emphasizing that what you are saying is only an opinion, then cut it out and write more concisely and confidently.

Wordy: I feel like I create a lot of value for the company and that is why I think I deserve a raise.

Concise: I create a lot of value for the company. And that is why I deserve a raise.

Clean Up Lists

Wordiness can creep into lists. Any time you see terms like “as well as,” “in addition to,” and “not only… but,” chances are there is a list nearby. Cut those clumsy phrases and straighten out the sentences. For instance, instead of “X and Y, in addition to Z” you can say “X, Y, and Z.” It is more concise and clear that way.

Wordy: Charlie was the best candidate because he had the most experience. Also, he had the best presentation, as well as the strongest letters of recommendation.

Concise: Charlie was the best candidate because he had the most experience, best presentation, and strongest letters of recommendation.

Delete Little Words

Striking little words can make a difference. Give you message one last look and find anywhere you used the words “the” and “that.” Those are two places where words can be deleted without changing the meaning at all.

Wordy: Zain decided that the best option for the summer was to live at home and work at the restaurant.

Concise: Zain decided the best option for summer was to live at home and work at the restaurant.


Your Turn: Can You Make These Sentences Less Wordy?

Below are several wordy sentences. Using the techniques described above, how much can you trim each sentence without losing any necessary information?

  1. In the event that you are unable to attend the meeting scheduled for Monday, we would like to inquire about the possibility of rescheduling it to a later date that would be more convenient for you.

  2. Due to the fact that we are currently experiencing a high volume of inquiries, our response time may be delayed.

  3. At this point in time, we are not in a position to proceed with the finalization of the contract due to the fact that certain key managers have not yet given their approval.

  4. For the purpose of improving our customer service, we are pleased to announce the implementation of a new feedback system.

  5. In light of the fact that we have not received a response from you, we would like to remind you of the upcoming deadline.


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Business Communication: Five Core Competencies Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Lucas, Jacob D. Rawlins, and Jenna Haugen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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