Leave out needless words and phrases. 




Incorrect Examples

Correct Examples

a) Trim excess wordiness, even if it is necessary to combine sentences that contain similar material.

One of the things that I think is that Marie was the character that was the most selfish of all the people in this whole story.  (26 words)

Marie was the most selfish character in this story. 

(9 words)

b) Don’t repeat the same information with different wording.

I have an outfit that is red, that is, it is mostly red.  It is red on the skirt and most of the blouse is red.  (26 words)

My skirt and blouse are mostly red.  (7 words)

c) Do not double the subject. 

My cousin Bill he came over. 

My cousin Bill came over. 

d) Limit the number of prepositional phrases in the sentence. 

Studies of the child in society in recent years by professionals in the field of sociology in the West show that the benefits of raising of children by parents who are married in a stable household is great.  (11 prep phrases)

Recent studies by Western sociologists agree that parents raising children in a stable, married household is beneficial. 

 (2 prep phrases)

e) Avoid a sentence pattern that unnecessarily repeats a subject-verb pair.  This is true of almost every sentence that begins with “there is” or “there was”. 

She is a person who is always on time. 

(9 words)

There is a special piece of equipment that we will need.  (11 words)

Prejudice is a thing that has happened throughout history.  (8 words)

She always arrives on time.  

 (5 words)

We will need a special piece of equipment. 

(8 words)

Prejudice has happened throughout history. 

(5 words)

f) Whenever possible, use single-word verbs rather than verb phrases. 

The janitor was beginning to be beating the rug. 

(5 word verb phrase)

The janitor beat the rug. 

(1 word verb)


The janitor began to beat the rug.

(3 words in verb phrase)

g) Avoid introductory words and phrases that add nothing to the content of the sentence. 

Yes, a rose is red. 


Well, a rose is red.


Now, a rose is red. 


I think that a rose is red. 



A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and machine no unnecessary parts. 

Wm. Strunk & E.B. White

Elements of Style.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

George Orwell, “Six Rules”

I’ll always take a plain sentence that’s clear over a pretty one that’s unintelligible.

Patricia T. O’Connor