Wordiness

by , under Grammar

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Writers commonly use more words than they need to. The more words you throw at a reader, the more words the reader will have to process to get at your ideas. When the words are meaningless or redundant, there is more to for the reader to ignore, slowing attempts to understand your message.

Proofreaders, editors, and English teachers call this phenomenon “wordiness.” First and second language users of English can be wordy, but second language second language learners seem particularly prone to it.

The blame for wordiness can be shared with English teachers since they routinely specify the number of words they want students to submit. The uninspired student may get to the end of his or her message but fail to reach the minimum number of words and push themselves to churn out unnecessary phrases, clauses, and sentences to meet the teacher’s requirements for the assignment. Padding a text with filler words may seem like the only option.

But there are other causes, too.

First language influences

Wordiness can also be due to the learner’s first language. In French, for example, “la mere de mon ami” can be translated as “the mother of my friend.” This word-for-word translation uses five words to say what a native speaker would say in three: my friend’s mother.

Nominalization

But native speakers are also prone toward wordy sentences by employing nominalizations. Using a noun instead of a verb can bloat a sentence and obscure who did what to whom. Turning nouns into verbs can restore vigor and concision to your writing if we just try.

Wordy:  The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation maybe an indication of a tendency towards pomposity and abstraction.

Concise:  Writers who overload their sentences with nominalizations tend to sound pompous and abstract.

What’s the big deal?

Whether intentional or unintentional, whether due to a first language influence or a tendency to use nominalizations, wordiness can befall us all. But what is the problem with wordiness?

In short, wordiness detracts from the coherence and quality of your writing. It frustrates the reader who is trying to grasp quickly what you have written. It bores. It repels.

Ditch filler words

A writer can avoid being too wordy by reading through each paragraph and striking out any word that does not add to the meaning of the paragraph. Cut out all filler words.  Filler words represent words which sneak between relevant phrases in a sentence but are essentially useless.

You can be sure you are removing filler words because when you cut them out the sentence still makes grammatical sense.  The removal of fillers can do a lot to improve the quality of a sentence.  For example in a sentence starting with “It is commonly believed that ……” the word “commonly” represents a filler which may be removed without altering the meaning of the sentence.

Wordy:  It is commonly believed that there is a life after death.

Concise: It is believed that there is a life after death.

Redundancies

Redundancies are also considered another major cause of wordiness.  Writers in this context may include redundant words or information in sentences. For English as a Second Language learner, redundant words are often found in their characteristically descriptive writing.

Synonyms are the main culprit. In an effort to demonstrate an extensive vocabulary, the writer might repeat the same thing in different ways. Readers are subjected to a lot of reading without learning anything new. Hence, by reducing redundancies in sentences, students can effectively write in a less wordy manner.

Qualifiers

Additionally, qualifiers may result in wordiness if they are overused in sentences. Conventionally, qualifiers are used before an adjective or adverbs to enhance or reduce the quality of the modified word. English writers often overuse intensifying qualifiers such as “really” or “very” which distracts the readers by making the sentences too wordy.  “Great” is one word. “Very good” is two. “Really, really good” is just a wordy way to say “excellent,” isn’t it?

Learning how to replace the intensifying words with one potent word is essential in reducing wordiness. If you feel the need to use intensifiers like “really” or “very,” it is time to improve your vocabulary.  For English as Second Language learners, especially, it is imperative to focus more time on learning potent words as opposed to many mediocre words.

Logorrhea is considered a form wordiness which involves the deliberate use of long sentences or overly abstract wording. Both qualifiers and adjectives are overused to create sentences with extra words which unnecessarily complicate expository writing. This type of writing is often frustrating to readers through the extensive time taken to understand the ideas presented in the sentences. Adopting a more reader-friendly form of writing is crucial in enhancing the level understanding. Precise and concise sentences assist in succinctly conveying the message which is ideally the main reason for writing.

Grammar Checkers

For some, using a free grammar checker can help eliminate wordiness errors.  The Virtual Writing Tutor is a good choice. Grammarly is another.

Simply enter your text and click “Check.” The grammar checker will do the work of looking for wordiness errors and suggest an alternative. What could be easier?

Sources

https://proofreadingpal.com/proofreading-pulse/essays/how-to-avoid-wordiness/

https://www.scribendi.com/advice/how_to_eliminate_wordiness.en.html

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