Editing for Wordiness

AuthorEdwin Scott Fruehwald
ProfessionLaw Professor at the University of Alabama
Chapter Goals
1. To help you recognize unnecessary words and wordy expressions in
your writing.
To help you eliminate unnecessary words and wordy expressions in
your writing.
To help you recognize unnecessary repetitions in your writing and
eliminate them.
4. To help you recognize unnecessary “there” and “it” constructions in
your writing and eliminate them.
To help you recognize long descriptive phrases in your writing and
eliminate them.
To help you recognize wordy negative expressions in your writing
and eliminate them.
7. To help you shorten introductory phrases.
To help you develop the habit of thinking about every sentence, clause,
phrase, and word you write.
Edit Wordy Expressions
A major problem with much writing is wordiness—using several words when
one will do. Readers get stuck in long sentences containing excess verbiage.
A lawyer can often improve his or her writing considerably just by paring
Chapter 3
Editing for Wordiness
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unnecessary words. I usually can cut at least 10 percent from a rst draft
just by eliminating wordiness.1 Read the following examples (out loud):
In some instances, even people who are well educated will make mis-
takes that are serious.
Sometimes, even well-educated people will make serious mistakes.
The question as to whether summary judgment should be granted by
this court will be dependent upon factors that are difcult for a judge
to decide.
Whether this court will grant summary judgment will depend upon
difcult factors for the judge. (better)
I hope that you liked the second versions better. They are shorter and
easier to read because they contain fewer words. (I hope you noticed that
I included the passive voice and a nominalization in the second example.
They also create wordiness.)
To nd wordiness in your writing, you need to slowly and carefully
read your writing. You should consider every sentence, clause, phrase, and
word you’ve written to determine whether you can eliminate words with-
out changing the meaning.
Exercise 3-1
Edit the following sentences for wordiness.
1. I am writing you in regard to your letter of March 5, 2014.
2. John is a person who succeeds at everything he does.
3. Mary left in an abrupt manner.
4. Owing to the fact that he was ill, Barry did not go to work.
5. Many people here in the city of Louisville enjoy horse racing.
1. Eliminating wordiness comes in handy when you have a page limit.
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