writing tips

Writing is Good but Short Writing is Better

beans

This article won’t teach you so much about good grammar or even the right word choice, but how to improve your writing style. You can easily improve your style if you shorten your sentences. Make your sentences relevant and put in only the important information!

Problem: Writing Three Sentences with the Same Information

You’ve probably seen this problem in other people’s writing or in your own. It’s when three sentences are written about a certain subject, when they could easily be put into one.

Here is an example that I found on an editor’s website:

Bad writing:

He opened the cupboard, took out a can of beans, opened the drawer, took out the can opener, and opened the can of beans.

Good writing:

He opened a can of beans.

This first (long) sample is bad, because it repeats the word “opened” three times, and uses “took out” twice. If you can help it, use the same word only once in a sentence.

The long sample is also bad because it is monotonous and boring. There is a lot of time and ink wasted on actions that repeat themselves. Besides they are so routine that there’s no need to describe them. Everybody knows that you can find a can in a cupboard and that a can opener is probably in the drawer. There is no reason to describe these things.

Another example:

Bad writing:

I saw my friend. She looked great. My friend was wearing the white and brown sweater that we had bought (her and me). I love this sweater. The white and brown sweater looks just so great on her.

Good writing:

I saw my friend, who was wearing the lovely white and brown sweater that we had bought together.

The main change here is the use of “who.” The big advantage of using relative pronouns (who, which, whose, that) is that you don’t have to repeat saying about what or who you’re writing.

Another (student) example:

I find it difficult to understand what I read.  When I read an English newspaper I find it difficult to understand the news.  My reading is weak.

Improved version:

I find it difficult to understand English, for example when I read a newspaper.

So here I’ve used a connector “for example” to contract (shorten) the information in the student’s sentences.

Connectors are an easy way to guide your reader.

For instance, if you use “suddenly,” your reader will be ready to expect something exciting.

If you use “however” or “although” you reader will know that there is a contrast between two things.

If you use “especially” or “for example,” your reader will be alerted to expect a demonstration of what you’ve just said.

Tip for using connectors:

Don’t try to use all the connectors at once. Try practising a connector that you didn’t know. After you’ve done this for a while, move on to the next one.

Last (student) example:

I am from Pune.  Which falls in the state of Maharashtra, in India.

Improved version:

I’m from Pune, in the state of Maharashtra, India.

In some cases it’s easier if you leave out the relative pronoun. In the example, you can leave out “which.” By the way, beginning your sentence with a connector is incorrect in almost all cases.

Exercise

Rewrite the following samples of bad writing to make them better:

1 Thanks for emailing back. It’d be great if you sent me the revised workbook soon. I’ll be working at home this weekend, so please send me the updates as soon as you can.

2 I am working as a software developer. I have to improve my communication skills. I want to speak really well.

3 I have gone through your website. It is new knowledge for me, especially about soft robots. I agree that soft robots can be used by people with a disability. I would love to discuss with you how we could help people with a disability using your soft robots.

4 James is a little boy. He lives in England. One day he goes into his garden. A man is in his garden. The man is old. The man gives him a bag with seeds.

5 Writing jokes is not so easy. It can be harder than it looks. Comedians spend lots of time writing just one joke.

6 I’m preparing for my internal banking exam and I’m really worried about this exam, because I didn’t study enough for this exam.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page where you can read some possible answers (yours can be different!)

 

 

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Answers: 

1 Thanks for emailing back. I’ll be working at home this weekend, and it would be great if you sent me the updates to the workbook.

2 I have to improve my communication skills for my job as a software developer.

3 I have gone through your interesting website about soft robots. I agree that soft robots can be used by people with a disability, and would love to develop this idea in a meeting with you.

4 James is a little boy, who lives in England. One day he goes into his garden. He meets an old man, who gives him a bag with seeds.

5 Writing jokes can be harder than it looks. Comedians spend lots of time working on just one joke.

6 I’m a bit worried about my internal banking exam, because I didn’t study enough.

3 thoughts on “Writing is Good but Short Writing is Better

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