User:OrenBochman/Concsise and to the point

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"Ministry of Works" says it all! You wonder whether ten words could be six or five (or fewer, if you want it to be what functional grammar calls "a short text". Removing words could make the sign more direct and the font-size bigger.

Redundancy, rather than poor grammar and spelling, is the biggest source of problems in prose. Here are sets of exercises to sharpen your ability to identify redundancy. The exercises tend to get harder as you progress through the page. Remember, you're trying to develop the habit of scrutinising the need for every word in a text. Undertaking these exercises can be the start of a longer project to tighten up your prose.

"Unfolding" design. The exercises are designed to be done in your head, without writing. On purpose, each unfolds in stages: first, the problem text, then a succession of hints to help you along; then a solution; finally an explanation. You'll get the most out of the exercises by thinking carefully about each stage before clicking on the next. Stop before you've had enough, and plan to return each day to take up where you left off. "Distributed" ("spaced out") practice rather than "massed" (all at once) will have a more lasting effect on your writing style.

But of course you're welcome to do the exercises without registering.

Starting out: removing a single wordEdit

Let's start with straightforward tasks. The following six examples can be improved by striking just one word. First, try to identify this word in each of these cases; then hit [Show] to view the suggested solution.

Removing a single word: more exercisesEdit

More straightforward tasks.

How many did you get right?

Vermeer's Lady writing a letter with her maid (1670); nowadays, the relative ease and speed of written communication have resulted in a move towards plainer, less formal structures, including simpler, shorter sentences. But we know from looking at the text of the great writers that redundancy has always been intuitively avoided in good writing, even when more elaborate sentence structures were common.

Removing one or two wordsEdit

How did you go in those two sets of exercises? Remember that you're trying to train your eyes and mind to be like a radar, asking whether removing each individual word will change the meaning. With practice, this will become automatic.

Redundancy renovations (1)Edit

Replacement wording may be required, but just do it in your head—no typing please!

Redundancy renovations (2)Edit

Further difficult exercisesEdit

These examples will require varying amounts of recasting in your head.

The longest geographical name in the UK: I switch off after the first three syllables. Removing redundant words may stop your sentences from feeling like this.

Longer examplesEdit

Redundancy occurs not only because your intended meaning is already conveyed by other words in the sentence; the wider context you've established in the text can make wording redundant. Picking out redundant wording from longer windows of text brings us closer to the actual editing experience on Wikipedia.

At the end of each "problem", we tell you how many incidences of redundancy the text contains. See if you can mentally tick them off as you read through, before hitting the Show Hint button to reveal the general location of each redundancy.

See alsoEdit

  • The Cut the clutter list – a useful list of fluffy groups and phrases. I haven't checked out the rest of their site, which is affiliated with The New York Times, a good sign. Beware its potential as a commercial hook to funnel you towards pay-sites.
  • Jprof, for teaching journalism – looks ok, but remember that journalism is quite a different register from that required in Wikipedia articles and research text. Again, it's a teaser to draw you into forking out money.
  • David McMurray's examples – front page worth reading through.
  • Oh, how flattering – here's a google-powered site that links to this Wikipedia page; the "Word doc" just below that link is worth downloading.
  • Writing concise sentences – another list of flabby-turned-concise examples.


Any questions or would you like to take the test?