Tightening your writing

October 26, 2012

Based on a writing tip I wrote recently for my work colleagues.


This Writing Tip focuses on ways you can tighten up your writing by removing words and rearranging words. The examples below are from some documents I’ve edited recently. Note that some of these examples swap a word for its plain language alternative (see Gobbledygook, Jargon, and Plain Language).

Bottom line:

  • Watch for the excessive use of ‘of’. You can often remove ‘of’ without affecting the meaning of the sentence – if you see an ‘of’ try reading the sentence without the ‘of’ and if it still makes sense, then delete ‘of’.
  • Don’t follow these guidelines blindly. The context is important, and what you’ve written may be correct for your context.

Let’s look at some examples from some documents I’ve reviewed:

Instead of… Try this…
report on an annual basis report annually
report on a monthly basis report monthly
on a regular basis regularly
the frequency at which how often
in the event of if
There were no [xxx] recorded No [xxx] were recorded
has been OR have been was OR were (depending on context)
until such time as until
employ use
utilise use
in excess of more than OR exceed
outside of outside
comprises of comprises
is comprised mostly of mostly comprises
are comprised of comprise
This section seeks to define This section defines
When communicating, it is important to select the most appropriate method or way of communicating to achieve your goal or objective. Select the most appropriate communication method to achieve your goal or objective.
ascertain check
It is a requirement to wear full PPE… You must wear full PPE…
carried out in a safe fashion carried out safely
working in a safe and productive fashion working safely and productively
is presented/provided/given in Figure x.x is shown in Figure x.x
The [xxx] Archipelago is an area encompassing 42 islands… The [xxx] Archipelago encompasses 42 islands…
a spill of 700 m3 of diesel a 700 m3 diesel spill
summer season summer
testing of [xxx] testing [xxx]
methodologies methods
the majority most
restricted access of fishing restricted fishing access
mortality death
measurements of the noise noise measurements
from the installation processes themselves from the installation processes
took into account considered
on the other hand whereas
will be managed through will be managed by
The environmental impacts of the spill are dependent to a large degree on The environmental impacts of such a spill largely depend on
by way of comparison compared to
report on and include a summary of report on and summarise

The first column used 178 words (874 characters, not including spaces), while the second column used 111 words (622 characters, not including spaces). So in addition to making the text more readable and understandable, the alternatives require less typing (and less paper if printed).

See also:


  1. Excellent post!

  2. Interesting stats. Especially when considering localisation costs.

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