When writing for work or funding, chances are you must stay within a certain word limit. These two quick strategies can help you manage “excess weight” in your prose:
- Delete unnecessary prepositional phrases such as prior to, with regard to, on the basis that . . .
How and why this works: Prepositions signal relationships in time and space. With few exceptions, we can’t write meaningful sentences without them. But when we use too many, the result is cluttered prose that makes readers work harder than they should. Effective editing can spot and reduce phrases that add bloat rather than substance.
- Turn a noun + preposition (“the … of”) into “-ing.” For example, instead of “The communication [noun] of [preposition] a clear message,” say “Communicating a clear message.” Or instead of “The intent [noun] of [preposition] this press release is to give reassurance [noun (nominalized) phrase] to clients,” try “This press release intends to reassure clients.”
How and why this works: In almost all cases, effective editing can replace “the + noun + of” with a single-word noun (often “ing”) that means the same thing. Noun phrases (“to give reassurance”) can then become verbs (“intends” or “aims”) that convey a direct message. Over-relying on the verb “to be” tends to bury the action.
Try this: In your next piece of writing, see if you can spot how many times you use any form of the verb “to be”: e.g. is/are/were. You may be surprised!
I can help make your prose as clear and concise as possible—so your key message shines through.