How to Delete Unnecessary Words in High School Writing

Cutting out words creates succinct copy that flows.
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Concise writing energizes copy and improves the flow of your content. You may be tempted to overwrite or pad your paper to meet a specific word count, but your reader relationship will suffer. Think of your writing as a hamburger. When it has a bun, slice of cheese, tomato, some lettuce and dabs of ketchup and mustard, you get a manageable, tasty bite. Add in three more buns, six extra slices of cheese, three more hamburger patties and a bottle each of ketchup and mustard, and the end result will be difficult to handle and probably not very tasty.

1 "That"

“That” connects a verb to its subordinate or dependent clause, which modifies the main clause. You can often remove “that” from a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. For example, in “I hope that they are ready to learn,” you can remove “that” to improve sentence flow. Also, look for opportunities to replace “that” with a comma to adjust flow and add variety to your sentences. “Remember that security is our main concern” can be cut to "Remember, security is our main concern.”

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2 Expletive Constructions

Eliminating other expletive constructions can help you delete unnecessary words in your writing. If you have sentences that begin with “there” or “it,” consider revising the sentence. For example, “There are three students that need to retake the test,” is more succinct as “Three students need to retake the test.”

3 One Word

Think about what phrasing is unnecessary or implicitly understood by your reader, and replace it. Instead of writing “in order to,” just write “to,” and instead of writing “She has a requirement of more study time no later than next Tuesday,” write “She needs more study time by Tuesday.” Writers sometimes create phrases they could easily replace with a single word or remove altogether. Other culprits include “in the event that,” “in the amount of,” “in regard to,” “with reference to,” “with the exception of” and “due to the fact.” Replace those with “if,” “for,” “about,” “about,” “except” and “because,” respectively.

4 Power Verb

Consider the following sentence: “It is an analysis of the affects studying has on final grades.” This sentence lacks a power verb. Rewrite it to: “It analyzes the affects studying has on final grades.” Power verbs create clear visual pictures without padding the sentence. Using the right verb eliminates the need for adverbs. Explore this concept further in the following two sentences: “He carefully read the document” and “He examined the document.” Along with replacing two words with one, the second version adds impact and clarity.

5 Smothered Verbs

Some verb phrases and associated direct objects weaken your message. Recognize these weak verb phrases by the “-ion,” “-tion,” “-ment,” “-ance” and “-able” endings used to turn verbs into nouns. Consider the following sentence: “We can do an inspection at the site tomorrow.” Write instead: “We can inspect the site tomorrow.” Rather than writing “Once you determine the location...,” write, “Once you locate...”

Joanna Polisena has been writing professionally since obtaining a high school mentorship at her hometown's city newspaper. Her work has appeared in daily newspapers, an employment agency's monthly newsletter and various corporate multimedia productions. She earned an AA in letters, arts and sciences from Pennsylvania State University.