The UVic Writer's Guide
As wordiness is the writer's bane, we have covered it from various
angles throughout this manual. Always dump the excess baggage
from your essay; it will fly higher as a result.
- Avoid overusing relative pronouns such as which and that. Often they can be eliminated. For example, "The dog that you
found yesterday" can be shortened to "The dog you found yesterday."
The link is obvious.
- Avoid overusing meaningless qualifiers such as quite, extremely and very. Words such as these have lost their potency through overuse,
and have become filler. Use a stronger word instead (exhausted rather than very tired). Many of these qualifiers appear in the Usage dictionary. Also
stay away from phrases like "A great many of . . ." and "A great
deal of . . ."
- Avoid ponderous or vague constructions such as despite the fact that, due to the fact that, an aspect of, and the use of.
- Avoid excessively tentative language such as it seems that and appears to suggest. Not only is it wordy, it also makes your argument appear weak.
Only use these constructions if there is genuine uncertainty.
If you are at all confident, write as if you are.
- Avoid redundancies . Do not write that someone is naive and innocent or dull and boring. These words are virtual synonyms. You do not have to provide
a list where a single word will do. Be aware of a word's implications;
for example, if you tell the reader that a woman is wearing a
hat, you do not need to add "on her head." The reader will assume
the hat is on her head because it is the nature of hats to be
found on heads (if she is wearing it elsewhere, then it is worth
- Avoid the passive voice which is possibly the greatest cause of wordiness.
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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria,
This page updated September 21, 1995