Type of Wordiness)
I. Unnecessary Nouns:
Beginning writers have trouble developing
sufficient length. More advanced writers have the opposite
problem. They have trouble being concise. Both problems
need a cure.
As young writers become more comfortable
writing, they often develop bad habits such as "grammatical
nominalization." This term refers to a type of wordiness
in which the writer uses both a noun and a verb when
the verb alone would do the trick. Skillful writers
learn to achieve a more concise, direct style by eliminating
this nominalized fluff.
Bad Nominalization: We conducted
an investigation of the funding.
Good Sentence: We investigated
Bad Nominalization: Our
intention is to perform an audit of the
records of the program.
Good Sentence: We intend
to audit the records of the program. (even better:
We will audit the program's records.)
Bad Nominalization: We had
a discussion concerning a tax cut.
Good Sentence: We discussed
a tax cut.
II. To-Be Verbs:
Nominalization may also involve using
phrases like "there is" or "there are"
to begin sentences, or excessive use of to-be verbs
when the sentence could be rephrased more concisely without
Bad Nominalization: There
is a Pizza Hut in Jefferson City that attracts
all the teenagers in town on Saturday nights.
Good Sentence: The local
Pizza Hut attracts all the town's teenagers on
Notice how in the "good"
sentence, the verb becomes attracts. In the "bad"
sentence, the verb is is. The heart of your sentence
lies in strong verbs--verbs that show action! Weak sentences
rely excessively on to be verbs. These possess no
visual punch and no action. Beginning a sentence with "There
is . . ." or "It is . . ." or "There
are . . ." is a bad choice. It forces the writer to
use that weak to be verb. Reorganize your sentence
so it has a strong verb that actually says something.
NB: If you begin
a sentence or a clause with there is or there
are, you are being lazy in your revisions. You have
not taken the time to revise for brevity. That annoys your
III. Ratios of Verbs to Non-Action
The writers most people enjoy and
find "readable" have the highest ratio of verbs
compared to other words in the sentence. Linguistic and
grammatical studies confirm this. The smaller the ratio
of verbs to other words in a sentence, the harder the sentence
is to understand. Watch as the sentence below becomes increasingly
confusing and awkward as this ratio dwindles, but increasingly
direct and comprehensible as the ratio increases:
A. John is in love
with Mary because of her inheritance of money [1
verb / 12 words]
John loves Mary because
of her inheritance of money. [1
verb / 9 words]
John loves Mary because
she inherited money. [ 2
verbs / 7 words]
Mary is aware of her inheritance of her money as
the reason for John's love for her. [1
verb / 17 words]
The dependence of John's love for
her upon her inheritance of money is known to Mary.
[1 verb / 15 words]
Mary knows about the dependence
of John's love for her upon her inheritance of money.
[1 verb / 15 words]
Mary knows that John loves
her because she inherited money. [3
verbs 10 words]
C: Mary's unawareness of
the dependence of John's love for her upon her inheritance
of money is believed in by John. [1
verb / 18 words]
John considers Mary unaware
of the dependence of of his love for her upon her inheritance
of money. [1 verb / 17 words]
John thinks Mary doesn't
know that he loves her because she inherited
money. [4 verbs / 12 words]
IV. Eliminate unnecessary
phrases if you can replace them with a single word.
Why write, "because
of the fact that" when you can simply write "because"?
Some students feel that, to get the word length, they need
to use every word possible. However, this leads to empty
phrasing rather than a lean, muscular essay. It's better
to write a short essay filled with many good ideas rather
than a long essay filled with many empty words. Try the
|because of the
|at all times
|in order to
|at the present
|due to the fact
|in spite of the
|in the event that
|for the purpose
Don't use four words
when one would be more concise! Remember Mark Twain's motto:
"When in doubt, strike it out!"
Eliminate the nominalization and
passive voice below!
Edit these sentences for clarity, concision, and style.
You may add or remove words if necessary, such as a subject,
and delete words if desired. Just make them as clear and
concise as possible.
1. We performed a review of the relevant
2. The acting company of Shakespearean
performers did a performance of Twelfth Night on
the thirteenth day of March.
3. There is a need for further study
of this program.
4. The committee has every expectation
that it will reach a decision for the purpose of reaching
a conclusion about that issue before the deadline.
5. There was considerable erosion
of the land of the farmers in the locale from the floods.
6. The group's failure was the result
of the way the chairman decided to submit his resignation.
7. The fact is that data analysis
must be done immediately subsequent to its collection.
8. We need to make a change in the
way we handle new technology when we make a decision of
9. It is necessary for presidential
candidates to give a good performance on television.
10. There are many people who fear
success because these are people who believe they do not
11. In their plans for houses, there
are brick walls that are often reinforced with stainless
steel by architects because of stainless steel's resistance
to the effects of the weather.
12. Favorable attention is often
given in their design of parts for missiles to the development
of titanium because there is a high strength in the material
in relation to its weight.
13. There is a need in our town for
a reevaluation of the water supply.
14. The reason an inventory was taken
was their suspicion of theft activities.
15. Our expectation was to establish
new tolerance levels in people.
16. The appearance of the candidate
before the board was on June 30th.
17. There is a presidential appeal
being made to the American people for the conservation of
18. It is my belief that there should
be consultation by the administrators with the student body
before changes in rules are made.