You must have heard the expression ‘less is more’. People say this regarding dressing and cosmetic usage. You may have wondered if that applies to writing and speaking contexts. In many language skill classes, participants are taught an acronym – KISS – meaning, ‘keep it short and simple’. The advice is to say much in a few words. Mightn’t it be true, however, that sometimes less is simply less and not enough? While not disagreeing with the popular stance already shared, I believe that there are contexts where you need to say/write more to enhance clarity. All said, it is still possible to say a lot more using short words, tight phrases, and clear expressions. For example, if an idea can be conveyed in five words, why use fifteen – ‘Men are better than women’ vs. ‘The male folk tend to be acutely better than the female folk in these days’. But if an idea would fully be understood if fourteen words were used, of what good would it be to use six words – ‘Women care for children than men’ vs. ‘Women care better for their children, making sacrifices of their careers than do men’. What is the point? We need to be concise, but we don’t want to risk our writing begging more questions than it answers.
People in every profession endeavour to perfect their skills until they do their jobs with the finest detail, thus deploying elegance; they aim to ditch anything that’s irrelevant. This should also be your aim as a writer. Aim to keep it lean and elegant. Expunge words that add no weight to your sentence. If you must use adjectives, ensure they’re useful and relevant by being specific. Use words that best describe the context, rather than general expressions that do not help. To illustrate, rather than say ‘She works in the corporate world’, be specific about what her profession is. You could thus say, ‘She works as a banker/lecturer/medical doctor’. Specific nouns or adjectives for describing people should be deployed at all times. That helps you cut the fat and focus your reader’s attention on what matters the most in your writing. All in all, your writing becomes lean, trim, and elegant when you convey the meaning astutely even while using tighter and shorter expressions.
The essence of this article is to help us learn to be concise in our writing so that we make every word tell and name what it does in a sentence. Consider the following usages to avoid and trimmer ones to adopt in their place to help you with concision.
1. he was short in height – he was short
2. she acted in a callous manner – she acted callously
3. the renovation of the house – to renovate the house
4. I am going to go to school soon – I am going to school soon
5. I am going to sit and try to start to write my article – I’m starting my article
6. I hope to be able to go to visit my dad soon – I’ll visit my dad soon
7. as a result of the fact that – because
8. due to the fact that – because
9. I am making an application – I am applying
10. as a matter of fact – (this expression is needless)
11. this is a matter that is important – this matters
12. the way in which things are done here – the way things are done here/how things are done here
13. at this point in time – now
14. at that point in time – then
15. the question as to whether this is right or wrong – whether this is right or wrong
By cutting out the fat, your writing becomes concise and to the point. What are some other ways to write more with less words? Pay attention to the following:
1. Eliminate ‘field of’ from ‘field of study’.
2. Eliminate ‘try to’ from ‘try to cook the best meal you can for the party’.
3. As mentioned earlier, write ‘apply’ instead of ‘make an application’ and favour ‘because’ instead of ‘due to the fact that’.
4. Use ‘launched’ instead of ‘undertook the launching’.
5. Deploy ‘about’ in place of ‘in relation to’.
6. Drop unnecessary prepositions and adverbs such as ‘back’ in ‘revert back’, ‘retreat back’; ‘up’ in ‘conjure up’; ‘again’ in ‘repeat again’.
7. Cut out ‘it has been observed that’ ‘it is noted that’ or expressions similar to these. They’re redundant. Go ahead and make your point about what was observed.
8. Although this may be controversial to some, I favour removing ‘that’ from expressions when I can. It makes your writing stiff and too formal. But many people feel that it is a necessary component of formal writing. So, wherever you can drop it, do so. For example: ‘There are five lines of evidence that we should interrogate’ may be written as ‘There are five lines of evidence we should interrogate’. You could further delineate the expression to ‘We should interrogate five lines of evidence’.
9. Ditch unnecessary modifiers like ‘actually’, ‘somewhat’, ‘virtually’, ‘really’, and ‘just’.
10. The phrase ‘tend(s) to’ is often used by some even though it is unnecessary. If you say that someone tends to do something, it means that they do it, so simply state what it is they do and cut out that expression.
The goal is to omit needless words and prune the fat off our sentences. I reiterate that this does not necessarily mean writing shorter pieces in favour of longer ones. You will find a ton of longer pieces of writing that hold down your attention until you’re done reading them. Each author must decide how long their piece needs to be for meaning to be communicated; however, read good pieces and note how elegant sentences are spiced with deftly chosen and striking words that are apt, tight, and taut. That said, remember that less may simply be less. Your goal should be to attain clarity while being as brief as you can. But if brevity poses a challenge for clarity, let the latter triumph over the former. In the end, it’s how clearly you have communicated meaning that matters the most.
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