Have you ever had to meet a specific word count for an essay and found yourself coming up short? Did you “revise” by simply adding words here and there trying to stretch it out?
Or have you ever written a paper and it seemed like it was full of fluff, rather than strong content?
These types of papers have one thing in common: wordiness. While they do contain lots of words, they aren’t necessarily well-written papers.
So if you’re guilty of adding lots of fluff to your paper (you know who you are), here’s why eliminating wordiness is so important for your essay.
Wordiness Adds Words–It Doesn’t Add Meaning
Just because you’ve added more words to your paper doesn’t mean that you’ve added any meaning.
Let’s say you’ve drafted your paper, and you’re at 862 words. Your paper is supposed to be a minimum of 900 words, and your prof is a real stickler for word count. You decide to add words to meet the magical number. But this doesn’t necessarily add any meaning to your paper.
Here’s what I mean. Let’s say the paragraph below is part of your first draft:
Doing laundry for the first time can be scary. You don’t want to ruin your new spring wardrobe simply because of your laundry ignorance. Should you wash everything in cold or warm? Your mom told you to separate whites and colors, but what about grays? Are they whites, or are they colors?
When you realize you haven’t met word count, you add more words. Now your paragraph looks like this:
Doing laundry on your own for the very first time can be really scary. You don’t want to ruin all of your fabulous new spring wardrobe simply because of your laundry ignorance. Should you decide to wash everything in cold or warm? Your caring mom told you to always remember to separate whites and colors, but what should you do about grays? Are they whites, or are they colors?
The revision adds 17 words. Great, right? Not so much. While it does help meet word count, it’s obvious that you didn’t add any meaning to your paper.
You’ve added words just for the sake of adding words. You didn’t improve your writing. In fact, you’ve made your writing clunkier and harder to read.
The takeaway: Don’t add words simply to meet word count!
Eliminating Wordiness Improves Clarity
Wordiness can sneak into your paper without you even realizing it. When we draft, we often write how we think or speak. These extra words, however, need to be eliminated in academic writing in order to improve clarity.
Here’s an example of a wordy paragraph:
A survey of 143 teens found that most of these teens decided that they wanted to enroll in college based on a large variety of different and varied factors. Many teens said that they made their decisions on where to go to college because of where their parents attended college or where their parents graduated from. Some other teens said that they decided to choose their college based on the number and kind of scholarships they received from each specific college.
Sure, you can understand what the writer is saying (after reading it a few times), but let’s look at this same paragraph without the wordiness.
A survey of 143 teens revealed that students’ choice of college was based on many reasons, including scholarships awarded and their parents’ alma mater.
That cuts out a whole mess of words! (It adds clarity too.)
3 Simple Ways to Reduce Wordiness
What can you do to eliminate wordiness in your own writing?
#1: Replace a phrase with one word
- Replace “due to the fact that” with “because”
- Replace “in spite of the fact that” with “although”
- Replace “at the present time” with “now”
#2: Avoid statements that announce your opinion or writing strategy
- Wordy: The goal of this essay is to inform you of my opinion about why the legal gambling age should be 21.
- Revised: The legal gambling age should be 21.
#3: Eliminate redundancy
- Wordy: She wore a dress that was red in color and arrived at 9 pm in the evening.
- Revised: She arrived at 9 pm wearing a red dress.
Now that you’ve taken out all kinds of words, you’re obviously falling short of the oh-so-important word count. What do you add in their place? More important stuff, like evidence!
Eliminating Wordiness Makes Room for Additional Evidence
Remember that prof who’s a stickler for word count? Let’s say you’re not allowed to write more than 1,500 words. You still have one more argument and the conclusion to write, and you’re already at 1,400 words.
This is another reason eliminating wordiness is important in your essay. It not only makes your writing clear and specific, but it also makes room for more useful content.
Here’s a quick example:
In this paper, I will explain why I believe that living with some roommates can be extremely difficult and challenging. In some instances, roommates might be the kind that are messy and might even leave their things everywhere. They may also steal from you, or they may have their friends or significant others over at all hours of the day and night.
Revised to eliminate wordiness:
Living with roommates can be difficult because they may be too messy, may steal, or may have visitors at all hours.
Revised to add evidence:
Living with roommates can be difficult because they may be too messy, may steal, or may have visitors at all hours. In one study, for instance, 16% of college students surveyed reported having something stolen from a roommate, and 33% reported that their roommates often had visitors at all hours (Smith 147).
The final paragraph is 10 words shorter than the original wordy paragraph, but it packs a lot more content into the short space.
Struggling to find the evidence you need to offer support? Read 3 Types of Essay Support That Prove You Know Your Stuff.
Enough of My Words
Now that you know why it’s important to eliminate wordiness, and now that you know how to do so, it’s time to write some words of your own—or as the case may be, delete some of those unnecessary words.
Bonus: Here’s a few more resources to help you with eliminating wordiness:
- 8 Steps to More Concise Writing
- Conciseness resource from The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill
- Conciseness resource from Purdue OWL
As you’re writing, keep in mind that avoiding wordiness isn’t the only thing you should be concerned with. Check out these other posts to help you with your writing style:
- Why Third-Person Writing Is Critical to a Great Essay
- 15 Ways to Improve Your Academic Writing
- How to Control the Tone of an Essay
- How to Become a Better Writer: Don’t Use Words That Sound Smart
Have you eliminated words, revised, and added more evidence but are still concerned that your paper isn’t up to par? Our Kibin editors are word experts and are ready to help!