How to make your writing less wordy

One of my college English teachers was the first person who suggested that my writing was wordy.

One day, I visited her during office hours for her to review something I wrote. I climbed the tall staircase to her office, she opened her door, I sat down, and allowed my eyes to wander the room while she read my work. 

“This is good,” she said. But I felt her preparing to say more. 

“But look what happens when you remove ‘able to’,” she added, pointing to several spots where I wrote the phrase. “It’s never really needed, see?” 

She read a few of my sentences with “able to” omitted and I was shocked at how it immediately strengthened my writing. Since then, I have very very rarely used that phrase in my writing thanks to her.

One of my grad school professors in 2015 was the second person who suggested that my writing was wordy. I walked into her office, sweating about my first grad school paper ever, and handed my draft to her. A similar conversation occurred and she offered more suggestions on what I could cut out. 

Ok, I thought. Maybe my writing really is a little wordy. 

So, what are some more common phrases that could just be cut out and instantly make our writing more concise? 


Before we dive in, I want to make sure your writing portfolio is always in top shape when your prospects check you out! Download my free guide that walks you through various writing samples you can create to give your portfolio a good boost. I know it will help!


Make those cuts

Through the years, I have discovered several common phrases that can be cut right out of our writing that will instantly strengthen it most of the time. For example:

  • That
  • Able to
  • In order to
  • It’s important that
  • You should note that
  • I think that
  • In my opinion

Let’s take a look.

That

  • I couldn’t believe that she was late to the discovery call vs I couldn’t believe she was late to the discovery call.
  • He was so excited that he shared his earnings on Twitter vs He was so excited, he shared his earnings on Twitter.

Able to

  • I was able to complete the project before the deadline vs I completed the project before the deadline.
  • He wasn’t able to publish his blog post in time vs He didn’t publish his blog post in time.

In order to

  • They had to save $500 in order to afford their business trip vs They had to save $500 to afford their business trip.
  • The team had to run two LinkedIn ads in order to learn what worked best vs The team had to run two LinkedIn ads to learn what worked best.

It’s important that

  • It’s important that you read a lot to improve your writing vs You should read a lot to improve your writing.
  • It’s important that they use safety goggles for the experiment vs They need to use safety goggles for the experiment.

You should note that

  • You should note that we don’t stay at work past six o’clock vs We don’t stay at work past six o’clock.
  • You should note that I don’t check emails at night vs I don’t check emails at night.

I think that

  • I think that there are good ways to write cold emails vs There are good ways to write cold emails.
  • I think that writing blog posts is a good way to attract an audience vs Writing blog posts is a good way to attract an audience.

In my opinion

  • In my opinion, content marketing is very effective vs Content marketing is very effective.
  • In my opinion, writing every day can make you a better writer vs Writing every day can make you a better writer.

Digging up the past

I really wanted to provide you with a real-life example of what it may look like to slash out some extra wording and tighten up a piece of writing. So I dug my way through some old blog posts on my author blog (before I transformed it into my author blog) and redlined one for you from 2017 with commentary on why I made each edit. 

There were many areas for improvement, and while the clean product still lacks some depth to it, I wanted to stay focused on editing simply to make it more concise. Let me know what you think!

The takeaways

Some general tips to make your writing concise are:

  • Notice longer sentences. Sometimes they can be shortened by simply removing a few words.
  • Think about different ways to say the same thing. Sometimes less words can still communicate the same message.
  • Read your writing aloud and you may catch spots where you could remove awkward phrasing that clutters a sentence.
  • Consider removing sentences that begin with a weaker phrase like “I think that” or “I’m confident that”, and others. These phrases weaken the sentence since if you removed them, you would sound more direct and to the point.
  • Remove redundancies. Sometimes you may find yourself writing the same or very similar idea in two sentences, so cut one of them to prevent being redundant.

Making your writing more concise isn’t easy—it really takes a lot of practice and attention to detail. But it’s also something where once you know a few phrases and tricks to keep in mind as you revise, it will give you a solid foundation to strengthen your writing!

Keep at it, stay motivated, and you’ll see improvements.

Happy revising!

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2 Comments

  1. Good suggestions! I always think of the Mark Twain quote when I use too many words, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Also, having the Word program read out loud seems to help me catch more than when I read it myself.

    1. Thanks! And I actually don’t think I’ve heard that Mark Twain quote but I like it! Reading aloud definitely helps me, too. I actually have my tutoring student read her work aloud a lot and we catch more spots to improve that way. Thanks for your input, Karen!

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