When people think of concise writing they often think of writing that expresses its point in as few words as possible without being impaired by its brevity. Concise writing cannot, however, be reduced to only word count. Using fewer words to express our point typically results in writing that flows better, but the same effect is reached by reducing word length even if the number of words used stays the same.
There are two main types of concision that writers should be concerned with:
1. Word count
This type of concision involves removing unnecessary words, and it is particularly useful if you are struggling to stay within an assigned word limit. For example:
“You do not need to complete each question”
“You need not complete each question.”
By removing ‘do’ and ‘to’ and rephrasing the first part of the initial sentence, we arrive at a crisper alternative with fewer words.
While reducing word count typically produces shorter sentences, this is not always true. For example:
“Serena is a lot better at math now.”
“Serena is significantly better at math now.”
The first sentence has one more word, but the second sentence has more letters. What sentence you use in this case will depend on your goals; are you trying to keep your sentences as crisp as possible, or are you trying to eliminate extra words on an assignment with a very restrictive word limit?
2. Word length
This type of concision involves using alternatives with fewer letters, and it is exemplified in the first sentence of the last example above. This results in writing that is generally less choppy and easier to read due to having fewer letters, and usually by extension fewer syllables, but it need not involve a reduced word count. For example:
“Emma is a significantly better athlete than Becca.”
“Emma is a much better athlete than Becca.”
By substituting ‘much’ for ‘significantly’, we get a sentence that is shorter and easier to read despite having the same word count.