Concise writing cheat sheet

No one wants to read extra words when they don’t add information or meaning. Writing concisely can improve readability, and save reading time.

3 ways to be concise

Writing concisely requires attention to three things:

  1. Only including what’s necessary. If you plan before you start writing you’ll know what you need to say and what your audience needs to know. Don’t include trivial, irrelevant information.
  2. Not repeating anything.
  3. Editing ruthlessly, watching out for wordy writing habits.

4 wordy writing problems

Here are some examples. The word in brackets can be removed when you’re editing.

1. Meaningless modifiers or qualifiers

Avoid adding words thinking they’ll add meaning or clarity when they don’t.

  • (end) result
  • (brief) summary
  • (completely) destroyed
  • continue (on)
  • (past) history
  • plan (ahead)

2. Redundant categories

Avoid including words that spell out the category of a word when it’s already obvious.

  • brief (in duration)
  • consensus (of opinion)
  • free (of charge)
  • (the month of) December
  • (the state of) Victoria
  • (period of) 3 weeks

3. Paired words

Avoid using a pair of words when they have roughly the same meaning.

  • (each and) every
  • first (and foremost)
  • (full and) complete
  • fees (and charges)
  • cease (and desist)
  • various (and sundry)

4. Wordy phrases

Avoid phrasing that includes extra words that aren’t doing any extra work.

  • (in order) to
  • is (located) at
  • during (the course of)
  • until (such time as)
  • owing to (the fact that)
  • (both) x and y
Avoid these phrases Try these instead
A considerable amount of Many, a lot
Acquainted yourself with Read, learn about
Added bonus Bonus, extra
Advance planning Planning
Advance warning Warning
A large number of Many
Along the lines of Like
A majority of Most, many
A number of Some, many
Any and all All
As a consequence of Because
As a matter of fact In fact or DELETE
As a means to To
As of the date of From
Assess whether Work out, see if
At all times Always
At an early date Soon
At first glance First or DELETE
At the present time Now
At the same time that While
At this point in time Now
Basic and fundamental Basic
Basic fundamentals Basics
Basic necessity Basics, needs
Because of the fact that Because
Both of these, both of them Both
Both [x] and [y] [x] and [y]
Brings to mind Reminds, suggests
By definition means Means
By means of By
By the use of Using
By virtue of By
Came to a realisation Realised
Can be seen as Is or DELETE
Cheap in quality Cheap
Cease and desist Stop
Circumstances in which When or where
Compare and contrast Compare
Complete failure Failure, failed
Complete stranger Stranger
Concerning the matter of About
Despite the fact that Although
Did not succeed Failed
Due to the effects Because
Due to the fact that Because
During the course of During, while
Each and every Each, all, every
Each individual Everyone, all
Early on in the Early in the
End result End, result
Excessive number of Too many
Extreme in degree Extreme
Final conclusion Conclusion
Final result Result
First and foremost First
For all intents and purposes Actually or DELETE
For that which is For the
For the duration of While, during
For the purpose of For
For the purpose of doing To do
Free of charge Free
Full and complete Full
Future plans Plans
Gather together Gather
General public Public
Has a negative impact Hurts, harms
Has (had or have) been found to Is, was, are
Has (had or have) the ability to (capacity for) Can, could
Has (had or have) the opportunity to Can, could
I myself I
In a case in which When, where
In accordance with By
In actual fact In fact, actually
In a situation in which In, when, where
In all likelihood (probability) Likely, probably
In close proximity Close, near
In connection with About
In light of the fact that Because
Inner feelings Feelings
In order to To
In reference to About
In the course of While, during
In the event that If
In the final analysis Finally
In the light of Considering, because
In the majority of cases (instances) Most
In the midst of (middle of) During, while
In the near future (not too distant future) Soon
In the neighbourhood of About, around
In this day and age Now, currently, today
In view of the fact that Because
Is able to Can
Is aware of the fact that Knows
Is found to be Is
Is going to Will
Is in conflict with Contradicts, is against
Is in contrast with Compared with, contrasts with
Is of significant importance Is important
Is located at Is at
It can be seen that So or DELETE
It could happen that Could, may, might
It has to be remembered Remember
It is apparent (clear) that Clearly
It is necessary that Must
Join together Join
Last but not least Finally
Later on Later
Make a decision Decide
Make contact with Contact
Make reference to Refer to
Manner in which Way
Mental attitude Attitude, opinion, view
Mix together Mix
More preferable Preferable
Mutual agreement Agreement
Natural instinct Instinct
Necessary prerequisite Prerequisite (needed)
New initiative New, initiative
Of great importance Important
Of the opinion Think, believe
On account of (the fact that) Because
On a daily basis Daily
On the basis of Because, based on
On the grounds that Because
On the occasion of On
On the whole Overall or DELETE
On top of all this And then or DELETE
On two different occasions Twice
Overall goal Goal
Overall structure Structure
Owing to the fact that Because
Past experience Experience
Past history History
Past memories Memories
Period of time Period, time
Pink in colour Pink
Plan ahead Plan
Prior to (Previous to) Before
Providing that If
Real truth Truth
Reconsider again Reconsider
Regardless of the fact that Although
The majority of Most
The month of November November
The reason why Reason, because
There is a chance that It may, might, could
Throughout the course of During, while
Totally obvious Obvious
True facts Facts
Until such time as Until
Was aware Knew
Whether or not Whether, if
Which have been found to be Are
With regard to About, regarding
With the exception of Except for
Witnessed first hand Witnessed, saw