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April 11, 2024

How to Master Concise Writing: 9 Tips to Write Clear and Crisp Content

How to Master Concise Writing: 9 Tips to Write Clear and Crisp Content

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You think you’ve written the perfect draft, only for the editor to tear it apart. 

Every writer has had that sinking feeling when they see hundreds of comments and suggestions on their draft. 

But if you look closely, most of these suggestions are nudging you to make one major change in your writing: make it concise.

Concise writing is both an art and a science. You have to selectively pick your words to express your ideas clearly and objectively eliminate anything that doesn’t add value to your content. 

In this guide, I’ve put together nine actionable tips to help you be more concise in writing.

What is concise writing? 

Concise writing is the idea of using fewer words to convey any idea clearly and comprehensively. It focuses on removing redundancies and fixing wordiness to write succinctly and capture all your ideas or points. 

Concise writing isn’t merely about reducing your content’s length. Instead, you have to make your writing easier to read, rewrite rambling sentences, and refine the finer details while retaining the gist of your content. 

Let’s look at our best tips to become more concise in your writing. 

How to be more concise in writing: An actionable playbook

Long sentences, filler words, and passive voice are telling signs of verbose writing. When you don't edit your draft for conciseness, you risk leaving readers confused or overwhelmed. 

Let's face it: Most people don't have the time to sift through long blocks of text to understand a new concept or collect ideas. 

If you want people to read your content from start to finish, you need to write concisely and get to the point quickly. Let’s break down nine tips to write concisely with contextual examples.

1. Write in active voice

The golden rule of good writing: write in active voice. Passive voice sentences sound too wordy and weak. Your content will also sound more formal than direct and conversational. 

Replacing passive with an active voice can instantly reduce a few words to tighten your sentences. Plus, it’ll make every idea clear and succinct. The active voice also removes verbs like is, was, were to get to the point quickly. 

Instead of describing the object/action and pointing at who's performing the act, you can directly place the doer at the start of a sentence.

The trick is to focus on the action and the person/group performing the action. Then, rewrite your sentences by putting the performer first and the action second. 

Let’s understand this with an example. 

Wordy: The brochures had been distributed by the marketing team. 
Concise: The marketing team distributed the brochures.

💡 Write in active voice with Wordtune

Not sure how to identify and convert passive voice sentences? 

Wordtune can help. 

Just paste your content in your Wordtune editor. Select any sentence you want to turn from passive to active voice. 

Click the rewrite icon. In no time, you’ll see several suggestions from Wordtune - each highlighting a different way to rephrase your sentence in active voice. Simply choose the one that fits best, and your sentence will be transformed for clarity and impact.

2. Remove conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions are another common culprit behind long-winded sentences. These conjunctions—like in order to, although, if, unless, etc.—usually create complex sentences combining two or more ideas. 

You can split these sentences into two (or more) parts and remove filler words to sound more concise. Or, you can also combine these ideas into a shorter sentence using prepositions. 

Let’s understand this with an example. 

Wordy: Although rain was predicted for the day, we still had to continue with our plans.
Concise: We continued with our plans despite the rain prediction.

You can also replace conjunctions with punctuation like commas, semicolons, and dashes. Here's an example to explain this technique.

Wordy: As long as we have the distribution plan, we can go ahead with our launch. 
Concise: We have the distribution plan—we can go ahead with our launch.

Look for these conjunctions and use any of these tips to remove the connector words and make your writing more concise.


3. Edit your tone of voice

The tone of your writing can make a big difference in your word choice and conciseness. When your writing is more formal, you might use more words to say something. But an informal tone conveys the same points in fewer words. 

So, before you start writing, think about what your readers want to achieve. 

  • Do they want to learn something new?
  • Do they want to solve an existing problem?
  • Do they want to pick up best practices for a task?

There are many other actions your readers are looking to perform. Before you start writing, think about their main goals and use a tone that best aligns with these goals. 

For example, if your readers want to learn how to edit YouTube videos, you'd want to take a light and encouraging tone with a few jokes in between. You'd also like to write shorter steps to make your content more actionable and less overwhelming. 

Wordy: To edit YouTube videos, you have to start by deciding the overall theme of the video, then pick the audio to set the mood, and start editing by referring to your storyboard. 

Concise: Here’s our step-by-step process for editing YouTube videos. 

  • Decide your video’s theme
  • Pick the right audio relevant to this theme
  • Create a storyboard and start editing

💡 Change the tone with Wordtune

Edit the entire tone of your draft with Wordtune. You can choose from two default tones—formal and casual—or give instructions to write in a specific tone. Wordtune will give you several options for rewriting the sentence in your chosen tone.

4. Say no to qualifiers 

Qualifiers are words like really, very, actually, just, maybe, basically that can weaken or enhance another word’s meaning. Some qualifiers also bring in a level of uncertainty in your ideas with words like probably, perhaps, and similar. 

You can communicate the same ideas and emotions even after removing these qualifying words. You can also replace qualifiers with stronger verbs to write more concisely. Instead of saying "walked very fast," you can write "hurried" or "rushed." 

Let’s understand this with an example.

Wordy: Perhaps the campaign produced very good results because of our strategy. 
Concise: The campaign produced excellent results because of our strategy.

5. Cut down weasel words

Removing weasel words is another way to write more concisely and make your messages more impactful. Weasel words are intentionally vague and redundant words that don’t add any substance to the sentence. 

Weasel words—like “experts believe” or “many believe”—give people the impression of an important/bold claim without crediting a real source or authority behind this claim. 

These words can make your writing sound generic and erode people’s trust. You can replace these weasel words with specific details about the person or study behind the information you’re sharing.

Ryan Law, a content marketing leader and the Director of Content Marketing at Ahrefs, created a list of common weasel words and better alternatives to write instead:


6. Use stronger adjectives

Adjectives can make writing more descriptive and engaging. But they can also make it wordy with qualifiers like very, really, extremely, and more. 

These words, along with others like incredibly, particularly, exceptionally, etc, are called intensifiers. They emphasize the adjective by adding one more word to the sentence. 

Instead of using an intensifier + an adjective to describe an activity/object, use stronger adjectives to sound crisp. For example, you can replace “extremely happy” with “overjoyed” to make the sentence more concise and vibrant. 

Here’s another example of how stronger adjectives work.

Wordy: I had to leave mid-way because the seminar was really long.
Concise: I had to leave mid-way because it was a lengthy seminar.

7. Remove redundant and filler words

Redundancy = unnecessary repetition. Using different words to convey the same idea can make your message redundant and longer.

Removing these redundant words and expressions is a surefire way to tighten your sentences and make your writing concise. When editing your draft, look for repetitive phrases or tautologies—like “I believe the zoo has several varied species”. This can become “The zoo has several species”. 

Here are a few redundant and filler words to edit out:

  • Vague nouns: These words—like aspect, thing, stuff—indicate an object or action without clearly specifying what they’re talking about. 
  • Pleonasms: These phrases use two words that imply a similar meaning, like “added bonus” or “advance warning”. You can remove this repetition to tighten your sentences.
  • Adverbs: While adverbs have their place in good writing, they sound redundant when used with a strong verb. For example, instead of saying “whispered quietly”, say “whispered.”
  • Jargon: Removing jargon and buzzwords is a great way to make your writing concise and clear. These jargon confuse readers and make your content lengthier. For example, write “use” instead of “utilize.”

Besides eliminating redundant words, you can also go a level above to delete redundant ideas. It’s when you’re making the same point with two (or more) sentences. 

Let’s look at an example to understand this.

Wordy: She's really good at painting. She can paint beautiful landscapes better than anyone else.
Concise: She excels at painting beautiful landscapes.

💡 Shorten sentences with Wordtune

Don’t know how to spot and eliminate redundant words? Wordtune can easily find a redundant sentence and give you several shorter versions. Select the sentence you want to shorten and click on the Shorten option to get this list of edited versions. 

8. Get rid of nominalization

Nominalization is the practice of converting a verb, adjective, or adverb into a noun. These nominalized words can change the entire sentence structure and make it unnecessarily long. For example, instead of writing “They developed this park”, you’d say, “They handled the development of this park.”

Removing nominalization will require a close look at your drafts to find the hidden verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Once you’ve identified which words to break, you can rewrite these sentences to take a more direct tone. 

In their book Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, authors Joseph M. Williams and Gregory G. Colomb shared a three-step approach to identifying and removing nominalizations:

  • Diagnose: Understand the main action (or verb) in your sentence. This action will likely be described using a nominalized word with suffixes like  -ence, -tion, -ment. Once you’ve identified the nominalization, it’s easy to find the action.
  • Analyze: Find out who is performing the action. If there’s more than one performer, choose the person over an abstract organization or group. This will be the subject, and the nominalization will be the active verb.
  • Rewrite: This is the step where you change the nominalized word back to its original form and rewrite the sentence with your chosen subject. 

Here’s an example contextualizing this tip.

Wordy: Jake had a discussion about the achievement of new campaign results. 
Concise: Jake discussed how we achieved the new campaign results.

9. Avoid wind-ups at the start

Wind-ups are unnecessary phrases where you spend a lot of time hinting that you'll make your point but don't actually share your point. These phrases—"I believe," "In my opinion," "I think"—can be distracting for readers and make your writing too verbose. 

You don’t have to build so much context around your point. Jump straight to the main message and remove such filler wind-ups to write crisp, clear sentences. 

Let’s look at an example.

Wordy: In my opinion, people should have the choice between options A and B. 
Concise: People should have the choice between options A and B.

Delight readers with concise and crisp writing

Sprawling sentences, unnecessary words, and redundant ideas can hurt your writing.

No matter how much you love your content, readers might leave it in seconds if they don’t understand your ideas clearly. That’s why you need to edit your work for conciseness. 

Concise writing can make your work more readable and deliver your message with a greater impact. 

So, bookmark these nine tips for concise writing and sign up on Wordtune to effortlessly write + edit your draft.