October 11

Editing Papers to Create Less Wordy, Active Tense Sentences

Sometimes people focus too much on grammar over style when editing papers; try these style tips to reduce wordy phrases and make active tense passages.

While “wordiness” and passive tense passages are not ungrammatical, they are not generally preferred in writing. Wordy sentences are more difficult to read, and passages with passive construction are often much longer than active tense passages. Any essay writer interested in editing papers to create simple and streamlined sentences can follow these word choice suggestions for clearer sentences and perfect phrases.

Use Careful Word Choice to Create Perfect Phrases

Sometimes phrases are filled with a whole lot of nothing: they may repeat general ideas or add unnecessary words. While some flowery sentences are purposefully long-winded, others are that way by accident. By editing papers for accidentally wordy sentences, an editor can give a passage more clarity.

Passages can be simplified by eliminating redundant phrasing. Very often, similar words or phrases are repeated in different ways in a sentence, possibly due to habit. However, unless these similar ideas are meant to emphasize, redundancy is bad. For instance, “Heather is working out at the fitness center getting fit” is redundant. Because “working out” and “getting fit” have essentially the same meaning, one of these phrases can be eliminated from the sentence.

Also, sometimes repeated words can create awkward-sounding sentences, but a person can almost always use paper editing to eliminate these words. The following is an example of a repeated word in a sentence: “The dentist cleaned the teeth and then drilled the teeth.” A writer can edit the sentence to say simply “The dentist cleaned and then drilled the teeth.”

While paper editing, a person can eliminate long, difficult words or phrases to simplify the writing. Some phrases, like “in spite of the fact that,” “in the neighborhood of,” and “have the ability to” are needlessly long phrases that writers often use. These phrases can be distilled to “although,” “about,” and “can,” respectively. Similarly, an editor can remove “filler” words from long passages for perfect phrases.

Avoid the Passive Voice and Wordy “To Be” Verbs

Both “to be” verbs and the passive tense lead to wordy writing. A writer can make his or her writing more concise by either changing verbs to the active tense or by using better word choice.

The passive tense occurs when the subject of the sentence receives the action; with the active tense, the subject does the action. Editors often prefer the style of the active voice because it is more energetic and clear, even though the passive voice is grammatically correct. When paper editing is a passive construction, a writer can emphasize the subject by changing the sentence’s phrasing. For instance, the passive construction “The ball was hit by Mandy to me” can be put into the active tense: “Mandy hit the ball to me.”

Verbs that are forms of “to be” (like “is,” “are,” “were,” “was,” etc.) also tend to be difficult words that create wordy sentences. Sentences that use “to be” verbs can also be rewritten for clarity. The sentence “Jennifer is against the purchasing of what was produced by an animal” can be changed to “Jennifer opposes purchasing animal products,” for example. While “to be” verbs should not be overused, they can add variety to a passage.

Wordiness generally does not affect the meaning, but it does make sentences harder to read. Distill sentences to their core meanings (while adding a bit of flair so readers don’t fall asleep) when editing papers and passages will become clearer and more readable.


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