Writing tip 4 – removing redundant words

Here is a way to shorten a text by deleting words you don’t need, such as a number of prepositional phrases, in getting your message across. So what’s the reward? You save words and get to the point quicker.

You want to get to the point quickly because people skim through emails and websites. They don’t read like in the old days and if they can’t find what they want within seven to eight seconds, they’ll move on, click you away.

Expressions such as “in order to” and “with a view to” are prepositional phrases. They complement verbs, although they can also modify nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. But they are often redundant. Omitting them won’t change the meaning of your sentence.

One example:

“We have started this procedure in order to shorten the time it takes to reach a solution.”

I’ve written the prepositional phrase in bold to make it stand out.

What if we got rid of it?

“We have started this procedure to shorten the time it takes to reach a solution.”

I just saved two words and so can you. Prepositional phrases are obviously grammatically correct, but often you can do without them.

Use your judgment.

I welcome your comments.

Rolf Soderlind

http://www.absolutwriting.com/ absolutwriting


2 comments on “Writing tip 4 – removing redundant words

  1. Hi Rolf very good advice. I like your blog. I write a lot (orglearn.org) and often go back over my old work and think how did I get into such a tongue tied mess with that sentence. I also find it very hard to proofread and/or edit my own work.

    One thing I find interesting from reading your post. I was talking some years back to a copywriter/editor friend who was retiring and one of the career achievements he was boasting about was that he never used the word “but” in his writing. I still avoid it to this day. However in a world where people start sentences with “And” I guess a little “but” (even at the beginning of a sentence) every now and then can’t hurt too much. 🙂

    Ric Townsend http://orglearn.org/career_success_blog/

  2. Hi Richard, thanks for your kind words. Regarding “but”, I don’t see anything wrong in using the word sensibly and I’ve never heard of a rule so draconian as never to use it. You also have the choice of writing “however”. Starting a sentence with “And” does look ugly, and I think it comes from journalism. By the way, you mention that you find it hard to proofread/edit your own work. That’s pretty common and it’s the reason why, in journalism, there is usually a sub editor there to read copy as a second pair of eyes.

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