Anyone who follows me on Twitter has probably seen me tweet one of my shrink tips. They’re examples of wordiness I’ve come across while editing, and I share them with my condensed, edited versions.
Usually, my shrink tips involve removing a word or two, but over the last couple of months, there’ve been a handful of doozies. Here are 5 of the worst offenders:
1. “you are being provided with an opportunity to”
This one’s a favourite. I see it pop up in various incarnations from time to time. This is a classic example of the author using the passive voice to avoid taking responsibility. However, in this case, they take it even further. Instead of telling readers that they can do something (if they take that course, sign up for that workshop, or buy that product), they tell them that they can guarantee them an opportunity, but it’s still up to the reader to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s the ultimate buck-passing phrase.
Here’s what the author should’ve said instead: “you can”.
2. “it’s very important that you”
Here is another example of the passive voice. Again, it takes responsibility off the author by making the reader — who’s the subject — sound like the object. Plus, it uses the superfluous “very” as a lazy way to add emphasis. Why not just say “critical” instead of “very important”? Unfortunately, that wouldn’t have shrunk the text enough.
Here’s what the author should’ve said instead: “you must”.
3. “they become better at being able to establish”
If you ever see the phrase “be able to” (or any of the conjugated forms of “be”), there’s a good chance you can simply replace it with “can” (especially if the sentence is in the present tense).
|I am able to go to the store.||I can go to the store.|
|You are able to eat hot peppers.||You can eat hot peppers.|
|She is able to throw farther than I.||She can throw farther than I.|
This example is no exception.
Here’s what the author should’ve said instead: “they can better establish”.
4. “Ensure that you are signing into”
I’ve found lately that “ensure” is starting to become a filler word. While it certainly has its place, it’s often unnecessary, particularly if it starts the sentence. In this case, it is a filler word, and because the author is speaking to the reader, it’s redundant to use “you are” when giving instructions.
Here’s what the author should’ve said instead: “Sign into”.
5. “ensure a strong foundation is established”
Here we have a combination of the first and fourth examples: passive voice and “ensure”. Plus, this is weak, especially if the author intended for the reader to be the one establishing the foundation and not that the reader just needed to make sure someone established it.
Here’s what the author should’ve said instead: “establish a strong foundation”.
As I said, these are a handful of examples I’ve come across of wordiness. I chose them specifically for how excessively wordy they are (the first example used 4 times as many words as necessary). Wordiness is a blight on any message that requires clear meaning.
While, you’re here, you might as well check out my post on how to chop your word count like a lumberjack. It’s chock full of useful tips to eliminate wordiness in your writing.
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