16d Wordy Sentences

Wordy sentences can obscure your meaning. Aim for clear, direct sentences so readers can follow your ideas.

  1. Substitute appositives (words that mean the same thing as the word to which they refer) for clauses beginning with who or which.

    WRONG: Mr. Stevens, who was my former neighbor, won his lawsuit.

    RIGHT: Mr. Stevens, my former neighbor, won his lawsuit.

  2. Delete expletives (words such as it is, here is, and there is that are added to a sentence without adding to the meaning of the sentence).

    WRONG: There is a chat area on the Web called Study Hall that encourages students to talk with one another about college courses.

    RIGHT: A chat area on the Web called Study Hall encourages students to talk with one another about college courses.

  3. Use modifiers instead of prepositional and verbal phrases.

    WRONG: He carries a briefcase made out of leather.

    RIGHT: He carries a leather briefcase.

    WRONG: He carries a briefcase made out of leather that is weather-beaten.

    RIGHT: He carries a weather-beaten leather briefcase.

    Note: Compound modifiers (modifiers made up of more than one word, such as "weather-beaten" in the example above) are often hyphenated.

  4. Eliminate unnecessary words, choosing simple one-word expressions rather than longer phrases (see Checklist 14).

    WRONG: The company is taking applications at this point in time.

    RIGHT: The company is taking applications now.

Online Tip Replace Wordy Expressions with One-Word Substitutes