In this column, Vista provides practical tips to help you write clearly and concisely, including best practices for using Microsoft Word. Please leave suggestions for future posts in the comments. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss a tip!
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“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
– Strunk & White, The Elements of Style
One of the best tips you will ever learn about writing clearly is to omit needless words. That is, if you can remove a word from a sentence without changing the sentence’s meaning, do so. Why? Because fewer words are easier to read and there’s less chance your readers will misunderstand you.
An easy way to put this principle into practice is to write your document without worrying about how long your sentences are, and then go back later and try to remove words without changing your meaning.
For example, the following sentence is grammatically correct but very wordy: “We will put in place such measures as are necessary to ensure that the staffing needs of the project are adequately resourced to meet essential requirements.” That’s 26 words.
What we’re really trying to say here is that “We will ensure the project is adequately staffed.” In just eight words, we’ve expressed the same information. It’s clearer, more concise, and easier to read.
Your readers will thank you!