Eliminating Wordiness

Writing concisely by eliminating wordiness is important to make your writing better, more engaging and effective. This slide presentation helps you to recognise the different types of wordiness and discusses ways in which wordy passages can be revised.

Eliminating wordiness is all about being concise, so only using the words necessary to make your point in a clear way. In other words, this means that if you can express an idea in five words, don’t use 10.

When revising a text, this means that all unnecessary words should be deleted until you are left with a clear, effective piece of writing that is not longer than it needs to be.

These nonessential words can be divided into four categories.

  • Deadwood
  • Utility words
  • Interlocution
  • Wordy phrases

1.

So, let’s start with number 1, which is deadwood. The term deadwood refers to words and phrases that take up space but add no meaning, like this example:

There were a few experiences that supported her decision to change her life.

Here There were, and that really serve no purpose and a sentence without these words would have exactly the same meaning. A revised version of this sentence would look like this:

A few experiences supported her decision to change her life.

Another common example of deadwood is starting sentences with phrases like I think, I feel, or I believe, like in the sentence:

I believe that not enough money is spent on education.

Here I believe is not necessary to make your point because since you are the person writing the sentence, it is obvious that – unless stated otherwise – you are the person who has that belief and just writing Not enough money is spent on education, makes exactly the same point.

2.

The second way to eliminate wordiness, is to get rid of utility words. Utility words are words that just act like fillers and, just like deadwood, do not contribute to the meaning of a sentence. They include:

  • Words with imprecise meanings (Like factor, or aspect, etc.)
  • Meaningless adjectives (Like good, bad, important, and so on), and
  • Meaningless adverbs (For instance basically, or quite)

Now let’s look at look at the following sentence:

The financial aspect played a role in the decision.

The word aspect here adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence. Aspect means part or feature of something, so what the sentence says is something along the lines of the financial part of something. What the writer is really trying to say, however, is that money, or finances played a role, so that is what the sentence should be.

Finances played a role in the decision.

This much clearer.

The following is an example of how meaningless adjectives are used in a way that does not add meaning to a sentence.

This deal will offer many good opportunities to make a profit.

The word good can be left out here because opportunities are always good. The word opportunity itself means favourable situation, so, again, good does not add meaning to the sentence and it should therefore be left out. So, the sentence should just be:

This deal will offer many opportunities to make a profit.

Adverbs can also be used in a way that does not add meaning. Like here:

Going along with the proposal was basically out of the question.

The word basically is used to describe the essence of something to emphasize what the most important idea is in order to clarify a point. If something is out of the question, however, it is already clear that something is not going to happen. Basically does not need to add to that, and can therefore be left out. The revised sentence would then be:

Going along with the proposal was out of the question.

3.

A third way to eliminate wordiness is to avoid circumlocution. Circumlocution means using roundabout way of saying something. Like here:

It is not unlikely that the virus will spread.

The phrase It is not unlikely is an example of circumlocution because the same meaning can be expressed by saying:

The virus will probably spread.

Here is another example using a roundabout way of saying something:

The suspect was in Paris during the same time that the crime was committed.

However, the writer could have said the same thing like this:

The suspect was in Paris when the crime was committed.

4.

Avoiding wordy phrases is another way of making your writing more concise, or less wordy. Similar to circumlocution, using wordy phrases is also about using more words than necessary to express a certain idea, but here the difference is that wordy phrases are often standardized expressions that many people feel sound formal or academic. Because of that, they are considered good style. However, they are not terribly effective. Examples are using:

Due to the fact that, which means the same as because. Or using Have the ability to, which could be written as Be able to, or choosing the expression At the present time when Now would do

Now, as a final example of using wordy phrases, let’s look at a one and see how it could be revised.

At the present time my client does not have the ability to comment due to the fact that he is part of an ongoing investigation.

This sentence could be rewritten like this:

My client cannot comment because he is part of an ongoing investigation.

So, to conclude. To make your writing less wordy, make sure you get rid of deadwood, avoid utility words and circumlocution, and check your work for wordy phrases.

Presentation skills: Beginning the presentation

How to start off well during a formal presentation or speech

At the beginning of your presentation there are usually four things that you need to do, and the first of those is greet your audience. Also, when you are not presenting within your own organization – so when you are presenting to people that may not know you – you need to introduce yourself and say which company you represent. It is also helpful to say something about yourself and to welcome your audience.

Greeting your audience is usually what you start with. Apart from it being the polite thing to do, it is also important to make your audience feel welcome. Doing this helps to build, what is called, rapport between you and your audience.  You want to build a good relationship with the people you are presenting to and greeting them before your get to the actual presentation is an important part of that.

If you are presenting to a group of people that you don’t know, or to people who don’t know you, it is also important to introduce yourself by mentioning your name and, for example, the organization you are working for.  Just like when greeting your audience, it helps to build rapport. Also, it helps the audience to put you into a certain context as a speaker, like in this this example:

Hello. I’d like to welcome you all here this morning. I am Jill Anderson of Anderson and Brand International.

In this example it is likely that the audience will link the name Jill Anderson to the company’s name, Anderson & Brand International. This information may give the audience an idea of Jill’s position in the company, adding to her credibility as a speaker.

This is not always necessary, of course. Sometimes saying your name and mentioning how the opportunity to speak makes you feel is enough to build rapport. Like in this example:

Good afternoon. I’m delighted to be here today. My name is Peter Jones.

Sometimes it may be helpful to mention your name together with the name of your company if your company has a good reputation in your field, or if it is particularly well-known. Like here:

Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming. I am Rebecca Ferris from KPMG.

Similar to the first example, mentioning your name together with the name of a respected company could positively affect the impact your presentation has on the people that are going to listen to you.

After you’ve greeted your audience and have introduced yourself, it is often a helpful to say something about yourself. Not only does this help your audience to relate to you on a more personal level, it is also an opportunity for you as a speaker to showcase your expertise. Here is an example:

Before I continue, let me tell you something about myself. I’ve been working for Anderson and Brand for seven years.

Letting the audience know that you have been working for the company that you are representing for seven years tells the audience how much experience you have and how dedicated you are to that company. This could make what you are going to say more credible because your audience is more likely to assume that you know what you are talking about because of your experience.

If you have a lot of experience in a certain field, but have worked for a number of companies during your career instead of just one, you could use a sentence like this:

My career in finance began in the late 1990s when I joined …

… and then you add the name of your company. It tells the audience how experienced you are, and if you add the companies you worked for in the past, along with the job titles you’ve held, it could tell your audience something about your skillset.

The following sentence works in a similar way:

My experience in the field of environmental preservation started when …

… and then you can mention an experience that had an impact on your career. You may want to use a sentence like this when you are a freelancer, for example, or when you are not representing an organization.

Welcoming your audience is also important when you begin your presentation and it is often combined with thanking the audience for the opportunity to speak. Like here:

Welcome to Google. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to you today.

This sentence not only expresses that you are glad that your audience showed up, but by expressing that you are grateful for the opportunity to speak, you are also expressing a level of humility. You are putting yourself on the same level as your audience and when your audience feels they are more or less the same as you, they are more likely to be interested in what you have to say. In other words, this way of welcoming your audience also builds rapport, just like the following sentence.

Thank you for inviting me to talk to you today.

By using this sentence, you are positioning yourself as a guest of the audience, which suggests that you aren’t there to tell them what to do or to believe, but that you are there with them to discuss the topic of your talk together. You are putting yourself on the same level.

Now, let’s look at this sentence:

Welcome everybody. I appreciate the chance to speak to you this afternoon.

This sentence works in the same way as the previous one. It builds rapport between you and the audience by pointing out that you are there because of them.

So, to conclude. A successful presentation starts with an effective opening during which you greet your audience and introduce yourself, you provide some background information about yourself, and you welcome your audience by expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to speak. If you do this well, you will set yourself up for a successful presentation.

Video: Beginning the Presentation