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Clear And Simple Writing: Use Fewer Words

Wordy phrases are the hallmark of Indian business writing. I guess,  we inherited it from the British. We think that the more ‘formal’  the word used, the more important we sound! That’s not true. Fewer words make better writing.

We often use two or three words where one word would do. This is what results in wordiness. Avoiding wordy phrases can help to keep sentences short.

Take a look at this sentence: Sanjay believed, but could not confirm  that Anita had feelings of affection for him. 

Isn’t this simpler?:  Sanjay assumed that Anita liked him. 

Here are a few wordy phrases we can replace with a single word :

with reference to/ with regard to  with  about

considering the fact that  with  since

it is necessary that with must

subsequent to  with  after

in anticipation of  with before.

I have only shared a few examples, but you get the idea, don’t you? Use fewer words

Would you like to re-write a couple of sentences, removing the wordy phrases? Leave your response in the comments.

1. The position with regard to the shortage of labour in Maharashtra is very serious.

2. Employment does not involve the necessity of obtaining a medical certificate.

Keep it simple and short!

If you haven’t already, you can read :

Clear and Simple Writing: Short Sentences.

Clear and Simple Writing: The Power of One Idea.

Buffer

37 Comments

  1. sridevi sridevi November 17, 2012

    Hi Corraine,
    I hope this comment really goes because I am having a real hard time posting comments since this morning. Having said that my experience tells me attempting brevity with depth is really difficult. But again once you begin to write …the mechanics are not entirely in your hand . You begin by trying to control the story/poem/article …but after a point of time they begin controlling you and you discover you are just a medium between your creation and the reader .That apart RK Narayan amazes me with his simplicity and depth and Rushdie has my heart racing with all those really big voluminous sentences. At the end what matters is we love our writing isn’t it ? and I really applaud you for your brevity.
    Have a great day!
    Sri 

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  5. Brandina Brandina September 29, 2012

    1. The position with regard to the shortage of labour in Maharashtra is very serious.
    a. Maharashtra’s labor shortage is very serious.
    2. Employment does not involve the necessity of obtaining a medical certificate.
    a. A medical certificate isn’t required for employment.

    This is a really good post. I tend to have a bit of a problem with being wordy in my writing. I’ve always been that way. Once, I tried to work it so my posts were shorter, but they just ended up feeling as though they were lacking.

  6. My Inner Chick My Inner Chick September 29, 2012

    —My Motto: Less is ALWAYS more.

    My Favorite part of editing is deleting unwanted words!

    Great Post, Corinne.

  7. Jeevan Jacob John Jeevan Jacob John September 28, 2012

    Tell me about wordiness!

    Oh, boy!

    I remember my teachers in India telling me to use more complex words (I think most English teachers are like that; they want their students to use “more complex” words).

    (But, there are people who pretend to be formal and only read complex essays; what has the world come to).

    I believe in simplicity (hey, even Einstein has agreed to that idea – if you can’t present an idea in simple form, you haven’t understood it enough – something along those lines).

    Language is for communication, right? Why go for complex, when simple can get the job done, in a better manner with more effectiveness.

  8. Dawn Dawn September 26, 2012

    Oh my goodness, this is a painful topic for me!!! As a technical writer & editor, I incorporate succinct writing. It’s necessary in the business world, particularly when dealing with doctors and engineers who adore obscure technical verbiage that the layman won’t necessarily recognize or understand. In my creative writing, however, I love diving into words with abandon! Brevity is not my friend in the creative arena, I admit it. I do occasionally task myself with writing a shorter post, just to prove to myself that I can accomplish a worthy article that is also short and sweet. It’s just more enjoyable for me to write the longer ones with splashes of delicious, evocative wording! 🙂

    Smiles to you, dear Corinne! 🙂

    – Dawn

  9. G Angela G Angela September 26, 2012

    Corinne ! I have read more than 2 or 3 times, and tried to frame this:

    Employment does not require a medical certificate.
    Shortage of labour in Maharashtra is serious.

    Hope this is correct, thanks for the exercise !

  10. Privy Trifles Privy Trifles September 26, 2012

    Guilty My lord!!

    I wish Corinne everybody who writes would actually analyze their writings so much! I actually went back to the post I was writing and realized even I do this quite often :/

    My attempts :
    The position about labour shortage in Maharashtra is very serious.

    Medical certificate is not a must for employment.

  11. Latha Latha September 26, 2012

    This is neat. I think I need more of them..:)
    Lemme try:
    The position about labour shortage is serious in Maharashtra.
    Medical certificate is not needed for employment.

    Hope I passed 🙂

  12. janu janu September 25, 2012

    The situation of labour shortage in Maharastra is serious…
    hope this is correct.
    Nice exercise Corinne. Thanks.

  13. Rickie Khosla Rickie Khosla September 25, 2012

    Ok, so what can I do to help you make this kind everyday gyaan find its way into schools and colleges? So that I don’t have to deal with dhakkans in my office? Pray, pleeeeze tell!

  14. Zephyr Zephyr September 25, 2012

    Perfectly timed post! We love our own verbosity, don’t we?

    Let me rephrase:

    Maharashtra has a serious labour shortage.
    Medical certificate is not mandatory for employment.

    How did I do teacher? 😀

  15. Martha Orlando Martha Orlando September 25, 2012

    With me, cutting out the unnecessary words has definitely been a learning process and a good one! Can’t say I’m perfect at it yet, but sure trying.
    Great reminder to all of us, Corinne – short and simple! 🙂
    Blessings!

  16. Shilpa Garg Shilpa Garg September 25, 2012

    After reading your post, I read my latest post and realized I am guilty of using looong sentences!! 😛
    Great pointers… will keep in mind! 🙂

  17. Melissa Tandoc Melissa Tandoc September 25, 2012

    Hmmm… in wanting to ‘sound’ more important, I use lengthy sentences 😛

    I’m watching out 🙂

  18. BellyBytes BellyBytes September 25, 2012

    Maharashtra’s labour shortage is a serious problem.

    You don’t need a medical certificate for a job.

  19. B k Chowla B k Chowla September 25, 2012

    Frankly,when I write…a blog,..a letter or whatever,I go with the flow as it comes to my mind.

  20. Susan Deborah Susan Deborah September 25, 2012

    1. The position with regard to the shortage of labour in Maharashtra is very serious.
    The shortage of labour problem in Maharashtra is very serious.
    2. Employment does not involve the necessity of obtaining a medical certificate.
    A medical certificate is not mandatory in employment.

  21. Susan Deborah Susan Deborah September 25, 2012

    Somebody remarked that sentences that ramble are the direct result of a convoluted mind which cannot think simple. I am always guilty of this. When I was writing my Ph. D dissertation, my Supervisor was always advising me to keep my sentences short and crisp. I might have improved after his many admonishings but I don’t know where I stand. But one thing, when others ramble, I can easily identify and point that out but when it comes to my writing, I can’t figure out anything. Astute readers like you should point out my glaring errors.

    Joy always,
    Susan

  22. Roshni Roshni September 25, 2012

    I love the power of the simple word.

    Ok, first sentence, The labour shortage in Maharashtra is very serious.
    Second one, A medical certificate is not necessary for employment.

  23. Richa Richa September 25, 2012

    This is very useful. I always struggle with breaking down sentences and using fewer words. I work with folks in the US who call all forms of long winding sentence use as ‘Indian English’! Why really do we need to be so convoluted and not say things directly!

  24. Rachna Rachna September 25, 2012

    I guess all of us are guilty of it especially bloggers :). Sometimes this rambling distracts me, and I am not really able to pay attention.

    1. The labor shortage situation in Maharashtra is very serious.

    2. A medical certificate is not mandatory for employment.

  25. Leah Leah September 25, 2012

    Corinne, I agree. I believe less is more in many instances. But…you know me, I love to flower things up a bit;)
    Lately, I have been cutting down the word counts for more subtance. This helps prevent boredom for the reader.
    Great subject! Makes me want to re-read my work and go to town simplifying!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues October 13, 2012

      Leah, first of all, my apologies on replying to late to your comment. I do love the way you flower up your writing. In my opinion, your writing seems to target an audience of more artistically inclined readers. I wouldn’t want you to simplify it – I come there for inspiration! Cosette’s Tribe was written in an entirely different tone from your blog, and therein lies the mastery of your writing. ♥

  26. Rekha Kakkar Rekha Kakkar September 24, 2012

    I am guilty too 🙂 agree that most of us tend to use too many words …great reminder! will try to be concise from now on .

  27. Punam J R Punam J R September 24, 2012

    Andd well-said, Corinne. 🙂
    ****
    The reason behind the intention of people writing big and lengthy posts is because they want to add length to their posts, thinking lengthy posts equal brainy posts.. 😛
    ****
    People write lengthy posts to ‘look’ intelligent.
    What say?

    • Punam J R Punam J R September 24, 2012

      Okay.. to be fair, let us say, some people write lengthy posts.. 🙂 Not all.. for I know a few bloggers whose lengthy posts make sense allll the way to the last line!!! 🙂

      • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues October 6, 2012

        I would say that sometimes people write lengthy posts because they don’t know better, Punam. But yes, some people’s lengthy posts can be really interesting too.

  28. Roshan R Roshan R September 24, 2012

    Oh, I am soooo guilty of this. I just ramble on and on where just a few succinct words would have done…umm, I think I’ll stop here before I do it again 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues October 6, 2012

      That’s because you’re basically a writer a of fiction – you have liberty of writing at length.

  29. Harleena Singh Harleena Singh September 24, 2012

    Absolutely Corinne!

    Being short and simple is the key. Though frankly speaking, I’ve been guilty myself of just flowing with words at my blog. 🙂

    Guess sometimes you just can’t control yourself. But yes, that works well when you are either writing a book, story, or it’s a kind of a narration.

    Let me try the first sentence…The position about the shortage of labour in Maharashtra is very serious.

    Thanks for making us think. 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues October 6, 2012

      I’ve been accused of being too brief in my writing, Harleena. It was the constant theme of my English teachers in school! So imagine how happy I was to realize that brevity and simplicity in writing are now advocated. A piece of fiction is entirely a different matter, of course.

      The first sentence: The shortage of labour in Maharashtra is very serious. 🙂

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