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July 11, 2006


Brent Robbins

Well put. Some people just like to jab on and on about stuff for who knows what purpose?...makes me feel like I'm at a family reunion and Grandma Ethel starts up on one of her "back on the farm" stories.

St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse

I can see that you take these rules seriously. Were I to have a list of rules, I'd have to designate one as "No Pooftahs"* as a nod to the Faculty rules of the Philosophy Department of the University of Wooloomooloo (Monty Python). But that's just my flip nature.

* Not that I don't love my Gay friends, but any list of rules need to be recited with an aussie drawl with copious "No Pooftahs" peppered thoughout.



The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words. Concise writing does not always have the fewest words, but it always uses the strongest ones. Writers often fill sentences with weak or unnecessary words that can be deleted or replaced. Words and phrases should be deliberately chosen for the work they are doing. Like bad employees, words that don't accomplish enough should be fired. When only the most effective words remain, writing will be far more concise and readable.

This resource contains general conciseness tips followed by very specific strategies for pruning sentences.
1. Replace several vague words with more powerful and specific words.

Often, writers use several small and ambiguous words to express a concept, wasting energy expressing ideas better relayed through fewer specific words. As a general rule, more specific words lead to more concise writing. Because of the variety of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, most things have a closely corresponding description. Brainstorming or searching a thesaurus can lead to the word best suited for a specific instance. Notice that the examples below actually convey more as they drop in word count.
Wordy: The politician talked about several of the merits of after-school programs in his speech (14 words)
Concise: The politician touted after-school programs in his speech. (8 words)
Wordy: Suzie believed but could not confirm that Billy had feelings of affection for her. (14 words)
Concise: Suzie assumed that Billy adored her. (6 words)
Wordy: Our website has made available many of the things you can use for making a decision on the best dentist. (20 words)
Concise: Our website presents criteria for determining the best dentist. (9 words)
Wordy: Working as a pupil under a someone who develops photos was an experience that really helped me learn a lot. (20 words)
Concise: Working as a photo technician's apprentice was an educational experience. (10 words)
2. Interrogate every word in a sentence

Check every word to make sure that it is providing something important and unique to a sentence. If words are dead weight, they can be deleted or replaced. Other sections in this handout cover this concept more specifically, but there are some general examples below containing sentences with words that could be cut.
Wordy: The teacher demonstrated some of the various ways and methods for cutting words from my essay that I had written for class. (22 words)
Concise: The teacher demonstrated methods for cutting words from my essay. (10 words)
Wordy: Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood formed a new band of musicians together in 1969, giving it the ironic name of Blind Faith because early speculation that was spreading everywhere about the band suggested that the new musical group would be good enough to rival the earlier bands that both men had been in, Cream and Traffic, which people had really liked and had been very popular. (66 words)
Concise: Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood formed a new band in 1969, ironically naming it Blind Faith because speculation suggested that the group would rival the musicians’ previous popular bands, Cream and Traffic. (32 words)
Wordy: Many have made the wise observation that when a stone is in motion rolling down a hill or incline that that moving stone is not as likely to be covered all over with the kind of thick green moss that grows on stationary unmoving things and becomes a nuisance and suggests that those things haven’t moved in a long time and probably won’t move any time soon. (67 words)
Concise: A rolling stone gathers no moss. (6 words)
3. Combine Sentences.

Some information does not require a full sentence, and can easily be inserted into another sentence without losing any of its value. To get more strategies for sentence combining, see the handout on Sentence Variety.
Wordy: Ludwig's castles are an astounding marriage of beauty and madness. By his death, he had commissioned three castles. (18 words)
Concise: Ludwig's three castles are an astounding marriage of beauty and madness. (11 words)
Wordy: The supposed crash of a UFO in Roswell, New Mexico aroused interest in extraterrestrial life. This crash is rumored to have occurred in 1947. (24 words)
Concise: The supposed 1947 crash of a UFO in Roswell, New Mexico aroused interest in extraterrestrial life. (16 words)


Rule 3 violation directly above!

Brian Day


Comment troll. I would not be saddened to hear that this person was banned.

As Foghorn Leghorn once commented in somewhat more concise English,



As Foghorn Leghorn once commented in somewhat more concise English,


That may or may not have been Foghorn Leghorn, but the line is definitely used by diminutive gangster boss Bugsy in the classic "Bugs and Thugs," which also includes the immortal line <Irish brogue>"You might, Rabbit, you might!"</Irish brogue>

Memorable quotes from "Bugs and Thugs" (courtesy IMDb.com)

francis 03

I thought IhopeUall's post was quite funny!









And I thought IhopeUall's post was funny too...

John E

How does one know if a post breaks the rules? Is there a word limit? No more than a screenful?

David B.


David B.

Oops, I deleted my whole post. Well, I'm feeling lazy, so I won't write it all over again. :-)

Tim J.


Much as I hate to call anyone into question on this...

I believe that was Yosemite Sam.


IHopeUAllAppreciateMe's post was hilarious, brilliant and thought provoking.
I couldnt have done better myself.


...has TypePad LOST comments? Ugh. (For the record, many of us thought IHopeUAllAppreciateMe's post was great.)

Tim J once wrote, regarding "Shut up shuttin' up":

Much as I hate to call anyone into question on this...

I believe that was Yosemite Sam.

However, as my now-lost comment documented from IMDb.com "Memorable Quotes," the line comes from gangster-boss Bugsy (of Bugsy and Mugsy) in the 1954 Bugs Bunny short "Bugs and Thugs," directed by Friz Freleng, which also included the immortal line, <Irish brogue>"You might, Rabbit, you might!</Irish brogue>

(FWIW, I'm not saying that the line was never uttered by Sam, or by Foghorn Leghorn. I'm just saying, in the absence of further documentation, Bugsy gets the credit.)

Is there a general rule of thumb to use in regard to length?

While I don't usually post long entries, the one time that I did, I said, "feel free to shorten this if it is too long".

Ed Pie

St. Jimbob,

Shouldn't there also be a Rule Six, specifying that there is no Rule Six?


BTW, how often does one have to post here before it defaults to a blank name again?

Jimmy Akin

It doesn't default to a blank name. You need to uncheck the "Remember personal info?" box to do that.


Jimmy, I had to re-type my handle and re-check "Remember personal info?" last week when your blog had that mini-meltdown. That's probably what happened to Barbara, too.

Yosemite Sam

Tarrrrnation! There ain't no respect here!


Sorry for any inadvertant violations. I'm an inveterate Aristotelian.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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