There is a common misconception that a verbose writer is a great one. While supplementary sentences or words can seem to add “smartness” to an essay, unnecessary fluff can only frustrate a reader. Good news: there is some telltale signs of wordiness that can help both tutors and tutees tighten up an otherwise long-winded paper.
2. Combine shorter, abrupt sentences.
Choppy sentences become repetitive after awhile and can begin to bore the reader. Usually, these can be merged easily, especially if both sentences speak to the same idea.
In this paragraph, the author uses metaphors. These metaphors depict the volatility of the character’s mood swings.
A Better Example:
In this paragraph, the author uses metaphors that depict the volatility of the character’s mood swings.
1. Do not repeat ideas.
While some ideas do need more than one sentence to be fully explained, many essays can often get redundant in this regard. If you re-read a sentence and realize that it adds no additional value, it probably should be removed (despite any writer’s attachment you may have to it).
The poem contains devices that suggest the audiences in Shakespeare’s time were relatively educated.
In other words, those who saw and appreciated Shakespeare’s plays were well read.
1. Use active voice.
Passive voice usually leads to longer phrases, complicated syntax, and indirect meanings. Sometimes passive voice can appear more academic or objective. However, when used frequently, it could cause confusion on the reader’s end.
Common passive verbs: is, are, was, were, am, be, been
In her essay, there are many passive verbs being used.
A Better Example:
Her essay uses many passive verbs.
2. Get rid of wordy phrases.
In the English language, there are many phrases that could really be said with one or two words. Below are some examples. Note: this is not an exhaustive list.
Due to the fact that → Because
With regard to → About, Concerning
Have the capability to → Can
A majority of → Most
Subsequent to → After
In the event that → If
Caveat: Although a writer should be cognizant of his/her wordiness, there is a fine line between expressive and rambling. Thus, while these tools can be useful for wordy essays, be careful to not take them to an extreme. Rule of thumb: moderation is key.
Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley
©2009 UC Regents