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Introduction to Academic Reading and Writing: Eliminate Wordiness

Eliminate Wordiness

  • Replace passive voice with active voice where appropriate (see Grammar and Style). 

  • Substitute multiple, simple words with a single, more powerful one: replace “find out” with “discover” or “ascertain.” 

  • Avoid use of multiple negatives. Rather than writing, “Papers that are not submitted on time will not be accepted," say, “Papers that are submitted late will be rejected.” 

  • Eliminate repetitive wording. For example, revise “The subjects of the study were divided into groups. These groups each completed a series of questionnaires to read “The subjects of the study were divided into groups which completed a series of questionnaires.” 

  • Omit pairs of words that are redundant: unnecessary luxury, past history, terrible tragedy.  

  • Avoid overuse of expletives (“There + be verb” or “It + be verb”) to open your sentences. Instead of writing “It is the role of the student to complete the review,” write “The student completes the review,” or, instead of “There are two offices that accept applications,” say, “Two offices accept applications.” 

  • Remove unnecessary modifiers or determiners that simply act as filler, such as “kind of,” “type of,” “basically,” and “actually.” 


For more on writing concisely and eliminating wordiness, see Purdue Owl’s Conciseness pages.  

Writing Tip Icon

A quick fix for wordiness: replace your present participles ( –ing verb forms) with active verbs. Instead of “Researchers are studying,” write “Researchers study...” 

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