4 Tips on Avoiding Being Long-Winded When Writing

The overload of information on the Internet today is a real problem and our attention spans are getting short, fast.

Being able to say what you want in as few words as possible is definitely a skill to get you by in #Y2K16.

Less Is More So Be Specific


The key to being concise involves getting down to the specifics. “The client was extremely upset” versus “the client was crying” exhibits attention to detail. It also helps readers get a better glimpse of understanding of the bigger picture. Show, don’t tell.

Less is more. Make sure what you’re writing isn’t redundant. There’s no need to write ‘absolutely essential’ when ‘essential’ alone is sufficient to get your point across. Be frugal in your use of qualifiers.

Writing “in a realistic fashion”, as opposed to “writing realistically” is important to make sure your reader doesn’t get bored too quickly.

‘There are 10 dental students on scholarship attending this university’ versus ‘Ten dental students on scholarship attend this university’.

Get rid of redundant phrases like “This is…” or “There are…” Just start your sentence and say what you need to say (cue John Mayer).

Break It Down Simply


In trying to explain a complicated idea, go back to what your English teachers taught you in Primary School. The simplest sentence structure involves: Subject | Verb | Object. Here’s an example to get you through this concept:

Original sentence: The appearance of withdrawal symptoms that occurred when Drug X was discontinued was further evidence of Drug X’s abuse potential. [20 words]

This is a complicated sentence which can be broken down to be more easily understood. It is possible to re-write this sentence in a few ways, depending on what you want to emphasize on. Ultimately, it must be able to answer the question of who did what to whom. Below are two different versions of a more concise sentence of the first.

Concise sentence 1: Discontinuation of Drug X caused withdrawal symptoms that are associated with higher abuse potential. [14 words]

In this sentence, Drug X is made the object of the sentence.

Concise sentence 2: Participants who discontinued Drug X experienced withdrawal symptoms associated with higher abuse potential. [13 words]

In this sentence, the participants become the object of the sentence.

The Subject | Verb | Object sentence structure we learnt in primary school can really make a difference in helping to untangle or shorten a sentence.

Weed Out The Unnecessary


People tend to want to sound more sophisticated, hence the long descriptive and flowery sentences to sound fancy when they’re actually just weeds in disguise. Not everyone appreciates this type of writing. If you painstakingly try to fluff up your writing with flowery proverbial phrases, all you end up with is a garden full of, well – fluff. What you need to do is to pluck the weeds out (what is irrelevant and unnecessary) and showcase the flowers (the essential point you’re trying to bring forward and what people are looking for).

People don’t always want to know all the nitty gritty inconsequential details. They want to know the key facts. This helps them understand things better and subsequently be able to reproduce these facts be it in conversation or writing. Wars, for example, are complicated things. Star Wars and the Syrian War are two such examples. Online videos are useful in their quick delivery of what there is to know without delving into excess detail. This goes the same for writing.

Cut To The Chase


Saying what something is not (negative form) makes a sentence longer than it should be as opposed to saying what it is (positive form). Being concise is not just a style preference but a business necessity in most workplaces. Do away with all the unnecessary and superfluous information and distill a message down to its essentials. Of course, if you’re writing a novel, or if Victorian Literature is pretty much your thing, then feel free to go crazy with as many long fancy sentences as you want.