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.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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