Conciseness when Writing Academic Papers ? A Guide, Examples, & Checklist

author By Mary Boies
a-guide-for-writing-concisely

Nowadays, there is a lot of hype about using more words to make a point, especially in academic writing. But the biggest question is, does this lengthy piece have what it takes to engage readers?

If you have read long-winded content, you know it's easy to get bored and lose interest. To succeed in academic writing and general communication, you must keep your audience engaged by creating easy-to-follow content. And this is where concise writing comes in.

Concise writing is avoiding vague language and using the fewest words to pass messages to the readers. Clarity is vital in academic writing, so you must choose your words deliberately. By doing this, you will go straight to the point and pass the intended message to your readers.

The following guide will show you what you must write concisely, including why it's crucial. Keep reading to learn more.

Reasons to Write Concisely

Writing clear and concise sentences is an excellent way to attract and retain your readers' attention which should be your goal in writing whichever type of essay. Here are more benefits of this writing style.

1. Hooking the Reader

In the opening of the book 1984, Goerge Orwell used the following words, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen," he knew that to attract the reader and draw them in, he had to use few but meaningful and descriptive words. Any other type of explanation, particularly a long one, would not have been so intriguing.

Related: How to hook your readers effectively.

2. Keep Your Idea Focused

You must convey your point without beating around the bush when writing any material. Using too many unnecessary words will only bore the readers. Since there are fewer words and phrases to wade through, the reader can quickly pick out the point of your essay.

Related: Writing an effective and concise thesis statement.

3. Saves Times

Writing without unnecessary phrases saves both you and the reader's time. The reader can quickly identify the main point and understand your idea.

4. Improving the Impact of the Essay

Reading confusing and overwhelming sentences and phrases will make the readers struggle to understand what you are trying to say. This can then make your essay less effective.

Tips and Tricks for writing Concisely

The tips and tricks below will help you master using the fewest words possible to write your ideas.

Eliminate Meaningless Words

One of the biggest contributing factors to wordiness in writing is unnecessary words and phrases. To ensure that your text is concise, avoid the following:

Meaningless Words and Phrases

Avoid any clichés, idioms, and slang in your essay. Take a look at the following example:

Wordy Sentence: She remained quiet as a church mouse instead of taking the bull by the horns.

Concise: She chose to avoid confrontation by remaining silent.

Filler words and unnecessary qualifiers

Have you ever included words in your essay to reach the word count? Well, then, you have used filler words. Filler words are phrases people use to fill empty spaces during communication. Such words include very, I guess, really, highly, you see, etc.

Wordy sentence: Last but not least, there have been several cases of plagiarism on campuses.

Concise: Lastly, there have been several cases of plagiarism on campuses.

Vague Words

These are words that are weak and contain a lot of definitions that vary in meaning.

Wordy Sentence: The field of engineering is subdivided into several aspects.

Concise: The field of Engineering is subdivided into many disciplines.

Do your best to use specific wording when writing any document.

Remove Repetition

Repetition is using the same word or phrase repeatedly in a text. Repetition in your text will disrupt the flow of your essay and effortlessly bore your readers. Some of the ways you can prevent this are by avoiding the repetition of:

Wordy sentence: We slept late because the baby hadn't slept the previous night.

Concise: The baby didn't sleep at all the previous night, so we slept late.

For instance, the reason why she moved is that she got something better.

For instance, your point is sound, completely sound.

Write in Active Voice

Writing in an active voice involves the subject doing the action described. Even though content writing isn't math, we still use specific formulas to show the make-up of a sentence. Active voice is written like this, subject + verb+ object.

Active voice is the opposite of passive voice. In passive voice, the subject watches as the action happens—for instance, the food cooked by Alice.

Writing in an active voice makes it more concise and easy to read and comprehend. It will also help you get your idea much faster and more efficiently.

Example:

Wordy sentence:

We were taken on a Science trip by our teacher.

Concise: The teacher took us on a Science trip.

Related Article: Using pronouns in an essay or paper.

Avoid Abusing Adjectives and Adverbs

Mark Twain once said, "When you find an adjective, kill it." Many writers think adjectives and adverbs are an excellent way to spice up your work. While this is sometimes true, it's not always a good idea.

Experienced writers avoid using them because they can be less forceful and objective compared to nouns and adverbs. Adjectives and adverbs can also become overused, thus cluttering your work.

Check the following example:

The big, wide, blue ocean can be seen from up above the blue sky.

Colorful? Isn't it? Even so, these colors are things that distract the readers. If you want to write more concisely, you must be careful about how you use them.

Choose Words that Convey Your Meaning Clearly

Most words usually have two meanings: denotative (descriptive definition) and connotative (emotional impact). Sometimes the connotative meaning can be either positive or negative. For instance, words like slender and thin have similar denotative meanings but different connotative meanings.

Avoid Noun Strings

We are all aware of what a noun is. It's a word that names things. Noun strings are more than three nouns in a sentence in succession. Each of these words adds to the meaning of the last noun in the sentence. Here are some examples:

Incorrect: Underground mine worker safety protection procedures development

From the above examples, the longer the noun string, the harder it is to read and comprehend. So, to consider your readers, avoid noun strings. The correct answer for this is:

Coming up with procedures to protect the safety of the workers.

Avoid Nominalization

Nominalization involves forming nouns from words commonly used as verbs. Take a look at the following examples:

You need to take into consideration several factors.

They gave us sufficient information about the program.

At first glance, these sentences look grammatically correct. However, they aren't as powerful. This is because they have taken the weaker version instead of using strong verbs. The concise version would be:

You should consider several factors.

They informed us about the program.

You should avoid nominalization if they:

Change Negatives with Affirmatives

Avoiding negative sentences and phrases can make your text more concise. Multiple negatives in your work can confuse readers and make them work hard to interpret the meaning.

Consider this example:

The readers will not like phrases that lack relevance.

The sentence would be much clearer if it were written like this:

The readers will like relevant phrases.

Using Transition Words

Transition words are simply like bridges that lead your thoughts forward. They are cues helping your audience interpret the meaning. They also help give more information with just a few words. If you properly incorporate them, they can make your essay more concise.

Example:

We saw the cat crossing the road. We were standing waiting for the bus.

As separate sentences, these could or couldn't be related. They also don't make much sense on their own. However, if you combine them using transition words, they can be clear. So the correct version would be:

We saw the cat crossing the road while we were standing, waiting for the bus.

The word while is a transition word. Other examples of transition words include: furthermore, however, in addition, in fact, etc.

When writing your essay, you must have a transnational strategy to ensure your work reads well. Transitional strategies include:

Related guide: Best transitions for academic writing.

Avoid the Unnecessary Use of the Forms of the Verb "be."

Be verbs are Is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been. They are called words because they show the action of being. Sentences containing verbs are often dull and uninteresting. They are also weaker than active verbs.

Eliminating these words in your sentence aims to create stronger and clearer sentences.

Examples:

Incorrect: You should be cleaning the house instead of watching TV all day.

Correct: You should clean the house instead of watching TV all day.

Checklists for a Concisely Written Paper

A checklist contains a list of items and points to be considered when writing your essay. The following is a checklist for a concisely written paper.

The checklist will ensure you don't leave anything and have clear and concise sentences in your essay.

How to Revise Your Work to Make It More Concise?

After writing your work, you must ensure it meets the right standards and that you have used the fewest words possible to express your ideas. There are certain ways you can use to make your work more concise.

The Paramedic Method

This revising method was created by Richard Lanham, an English professor at the University of California, to help combat what he referred to as "overwriting." The method involves seven steps that perform first aid on your work, much like a paramedic. These are tools, not rules, for creating clear and concise copy that is easier to read. You need to apply these methods after composing your thoughts.

Underline the prepositional phrase.

Circle phrases that start with of, to in, among, besides, off, for, on, with, as, from, into, at, per, about following, etc.

Prepositions are words that precede a noun or pronouns. They are the glue that attaches nouns and pronouns to verbs or other pronouns. So since all they do is connect these words, they are just a dead weight.

Circle the "Is" verbs.

Are verbs what we call them to be verbs forms, and they include are, has been, was wool be, were, is

being, are being, etc. Using these words encourages the presence of a long string of prepositions phrases, further sabotaging your efforts to write more concisely.

Place a box around the nominalizations.

Nominalizations are those words that have been changed into nouns using -ions.

Get rid of any unnecessary words.

Slow wind-ups are not good for your essay. So eliminate unnecessary and extra words or information the readers don't need to know.

Commonly used empty words include: Along the lines of to, at present, in spite of the fact that, because of the fact that, in the event that,

By means of, until such time, etc. These words

Get Rid of Any Redundancy

Repetition can sound dull and irritating in a sentence. As you read your essay, mark the redundant words and eliminate them from your text.

Get to the Point Quickly After the Introduction

There is no need to beat around the bush; get to the point immediately after you start writing.

Read the whole text aloud

Reading your whole text out loud will help you spot unnecessary, vague, and meaningless words and phrases, thus making your text more concise.

Some other revising tips to keep in mind include:

Keeping all these tips in mind will help you spot unnecessary errors in your work.

Proofreading Process

If you want flawless writing, you need to do more than write. You must ensure your work is concise by incorporating the following proofreading process.

Ask for Professional Help

The best and fastest way to implement a proofreading system is by getting help from the pros.

Swap Work

You can swap your work with your classmate or project mate and proofread each other's work. This way, you can point out mistakes quickly.

Follow a Style Guide

If you want consistency in your work, you must follow a style guide. Using a style guide will help you focus on the main point and other details such as spelling, word usage, and more.

Get Rid of Jargon and Buzzwords

Jargons are confusing, and buzzwords wound like clichés, neither of which add no meaning to your text.

Take Note of Homonyms

Homonyms are words that sound similar but have different meanings. Commonly misused words include to, too, there, their, etc. Using the wrong word, even when it sounds right, can destroy your prose.

Use Proofreading Software

Proofreading is a challenging task. It involves paying attention to the smallest details to spot issues like spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Online tools come in handy when you want to create high-quality, engaging content.

Get Rid of Unnecessary Commas

Unnecessary commas in a text are common grammatical mistakes. For instance, a comma separating a subject from its verb is grammatically incorrect. Take a look at the following example:

Incorrect: The last piece of cake is Mary's.

Correct: The last piece of cake is Mary's.

Editing Your Essay

Once you are satisfied with your essay's structure and coherence, you need to begin the process of editing. Editing is not the same as proofreading. Whereas proofreading

involves checking and correcting errors, and editing is about questioning and analyzing all the sentences.

While editing your writing, ensure you:

You are on the right track if your paragraph meets all of the above. Also, don't forget to evaluate the design of each sentence and keep the following principles in mind:

Manage the length of your sentences.

Short sentences are great for communicating, but sometimes your connection won't be made. On the other hand, long sentences can make connections between ideas but oftentimes obscure them. A series of long sentences will easily bore your readers. So break longer paragraphs into concise points and insert subheadings where necessary. This way, you will maintain the length of the sentences according to the ideas in that section.

Make Sure You Strengthen the Grammatical Core of the Sentences

Always make sure that your sentence follows this structure: subject (doer), verb (action), and object (what the doer acts upon). Place the verb closer to the beginning of the sentences whenever you can to help the reader process the information much better.

Related Readings:

Final Thoughts on Concise Writing

The primary goal of any communication is to pass information. Exceptional writing is lean, clean, and concise. Writers struggle to understand the content that is not concisely written; when this happens, it will defeat the purpose of the essay. Sentences written concisely will grab the reader's attention from the word go and keep them hooked throughout. Concisely writing will also help organize your ideas and thoughts and streamline the writing process. Academic writing can be elevated by concise writing, so borrow the above tips and tricks to ensure your work is well written.

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