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Polish Your Writing: Clarity & Concision

"Too wordy. Redundant. Can you say this more clearly?" Learn techniques to pare your prose and write with greater clarity, succinctness, and power. This presentation complements an SFU Learning Commons writing workshop.
by

Amanda Goldrick-Jones

on 23 February 2016

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Transcript of Polish Your Writing: Clarity & Concision

Polish Your Writing: Clarity & Concision
Developed and facilitated by the SFU
Student Learning Commons

Why Write Concisely?
"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."
(Hans Hofmann)
ACTIVITY -- "Principles into Practice" handout:

1. In pairs/threes, choose a sentence that wasn't in the WARM UP. Draw a line through wordy, redundant, or unnecessarily repetitious phrasing.
2. Turn the page and try the same thing with the "wordy" paragraph.
3. Compare your word counts with those in the SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS. How much were you able to reduce without over-editing?
Turn wordy phrases into single words
Are indicative of =
indicate
At a rapid rate =
rapidly
In the event of =
if
Is unable to =
cannot
On a personal basis =
personally
The majority of =
most
The reason why is that =
because

Turn wordy phrases into single words (hint: look out for the
prepositions
)
in reference to
on the occasion of
it is necessary that
prior to
despite the fact that
Try reducing these to 1 word:

We bought the exact same thing. / We bought the exact same thing.
She got a free gift from the store. / She got a free gift from the store.

Reduce redundancy
Now you try . . .

She is writing the biography of her life.
Soon the fortress was completely surrounded.
We're giving regular customers an added bonus.
To succeed as a writer, you must adopt a positive mental attitude.

The University of Delaware, which was founded in 1743, is one of the oldest universities in the US.
The University of Delaware, which was founded in 1743, is one of the oldest universities in the US.
Founded in 1743, the University of Delaware is one of the oldest universities in the US.

When possible, reduce clauses to phrases
Now you try . . .
The building that has white trim around its windows needs a new roof.
The man who was wearing a leather jacket may have robbed a bank.


Kind of / Sort of / Type of / Really / Basically /
For all intents and purposes / Definitely / Actually / Generally / Individual / Specific / Particular

Avoid or greatly reduce “filler” words
Can you think of any others?
Avoid overly general language (be precise)
aspect / basically / kind of / clear-unclear / good-bad large-small / important / interesting / lots of / great
more-less / number / situation / partly / perfectly this-it-there / somewhat / thing / to some degree
to a certain extent / way / very much / type / big-little
Thanks for participating in today's writing workshop! For more, visit http://www.lib.sfu.ca/slc/
One more essential strategy for clarity...!
Know the difference between the
ACTIVE
voice and the
PASSIVE
voice. Your choice affects concision and your reader's understanding.
For a fun refresher, watch this short video (the first part of a longer promotion).
The
dragon

attacked
the white
knight
.
SUBJECT/
AGENT

VERB

OBJECT
of verb
---------------------------------------------------------------
SUBJECT/
OBJECT

TO BE
+
P.P.

AGENT
The white
knight

was
attack
ed


by
the
dragon
.
The white knight was attacked. (Concise but ???)
A -->
P -->
Full transcript