Repeat after me; I won't be redundant

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"Readers think you write concisely when you use only enough words to say what you mean." Williams page 85

 

I've been told a once or two, maybe closer to a hundred times, that I need to cut down on my wordiness. Several times teachers and professors have told me to stop describing the same idea with different words and instead focus on dissecting that idea on a deeper level and formulating new ideas from it. Even my mom said that I throw in too many useless words, I think bs was the actual term she used, just to meet a specified length requirement. And you know what? They were probably all right, to a certain degree.

Especially in academic work, wordiness can be very difficult to avoid. Most students fall into the length trap. They believe it would be easier narrow their topic down to a few ideas and then repeat them to death. Sometimes, this is unintentionally encouraged by professors who ask that students narrow their focus to just the intricate concepts of their topic. A skilled reader will recognize the redundancy in the writing and most will subsequently be turned off by it.

In journalism, wordiness is an absolute transgression. You simply cannot do it. Because the length requirements often fall short of a writer's want rather than exceed it, redundancy means your writing won't be published. I've learned to avoid it at all costs in my news writing, spending often too much time finding the perfect word to replace two or three words.

I only wish I did the same with my academic papers, it might result in less red ink.

1 Comments

Great entry, Sean. Yes, it takes time and effort to prune the waste, but I think beyond a certain level professors will notice, appreciate, and reward the student who writes 200 thoughtful words (maybe by writing 400 words worth of a rough draft and then cutting it down to 200), as opposed to the student who stops after churning out the first 200 words.

By the way, please remember to post a link to the course web page for each entry you write. A reader who followed a Google search to this page would have no idea who Williams is or why you are writing about something from page 85, nor would that reader know that your classmates are also writing about the same chapter.

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