Concise Writing Cheat Sheet

10 Sep 2013


“Vigorous writing is concise.”

-William Strunk Jr.

The writing tips resource section covers an abundant amount of information on clear and concise writing, but this “cheat sheet” proves useful when you need an answer quickly.

The following guidelines serve as a concise-writing overview. Print out our printer friendly version to keep on your desk or carry in your briefcase as a quick reference tool.

  1. Only repeat a word if it is necessary for clarity or emphasis.

    Original: My brother Chris, who is my only brother, graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in English.
    Edited: Chris, my only brother, earned an English Degree from the University of Houston.

  2. Avoid redundancy — using two or more words or phrases that mean essentially the same thing.

    Original: When I was a child, Mom made me completely finish all of my brussel sprouts.
    Edited: When I was a child, Mom made me finish all of my brussel sprouts.

  3. Avoid beginning sentences with “There is,” “There are,” “There were” or “There was.”

    Original:  There are over 12.7 billion people living in Zimbabwe.
    Edited:  Over 12.7 billion people live in Zimbabwe.

  4. Avoid using too many nouns in one sentence.

    Original: The cause of the plane crash hasn’t been determined by the government
    nor by the employees who work at the airline.
    Edited: Neither the government nor the airline employees have determined why the plane crashed.

  5. Remove adjective clauses, such as “who are,” “which was,” “that were” and “that was,” whenever possible.

    Original: Two movies have been made based on the book “Little Women”, which was
    written by Louisa May Alcott.
    Edited: Louisa May Alcott’s book “Little Women” is the basis of two movies.

  6. Use single adjectives or adverbs instead of prepositional phrases.

    Original: Most of the stores we visited were overpriced and snooty.
    Edited: We visited mostly overpriced, snooty stores.

  7. Replace “to be,” and all of its tenses, with active verbs.

    Original: Barry Manilow isn’t considered to be a musical genius by the majority of people.
    Edited: Most people don’t consider Barry Manilow a musical genius.

  8. Avoid using the phrase “the fact that.”

    Original: The fact that a dog scratches himself does not always mean he has fleas.<
    Edited: A dog scratching himself doesn’t always mean the has fleas.

  9. Don’t get sidetracked with verbs.

    Original:It is important that there be no discussing the test in the room designated for quiet studying.
    Edited: Don’t talk about the test in the quiet study room.

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