Clarity Improved by Simplicity: Be Concise
Why is it that writers who seldom breathe a sentence longer than a dozen words are not the least bit reluctant to write 30- and 40-word sentences?
While conversational language produces sentences that frequently are fewer than 10 words, writers struggle to keep their average sentence length under 20 words.
Tight, concise writing has the singular goal of promoting clarity.
Mose has written often about how simple (not simplistic) writing involves a discipline that can be achieved by following some simple guidelines:
Use active voice : “Police arrested four suspects ...” rather than “Four suspects were arrested by police ...”
Avoid expletives: “Three teams are tied for first place ...” rather than “There are three teams tied for first place ...”
Limit participles: “They plan to visit ...” rather than “They are planning on visiting ...”
Write the positive: “She has no idea ...” rather than “She doesn't have any idea ...”
Those are easy to define.
Less obvious, sometimes, is elimination of useless words – especially those that we often read or hear.
Call them superfluous; call them redundant.
Just don't call them when it's time to write.
once again - By itself, again usually works just fine. Again is defined as “once more,” so ... “once once more”? Besides, aren't once and again mutually exclusive?
away from – By itself, from alone usually works just fine. If you run from something, doesn't that imply away?
at about - Mose is especially sensitive to this contradiction: at is precise, and about is approximate. So, which do you use? Well, it depends on the time – Is it precise, or is it approximate? It seldom is both.
and also - A redundancy that also can be found in sentences that begin, “In addition to ... he also ...”
While those word pairs might sometimes be needed for sentence rhythm or flow, they usually can be reduced to one word.
Tight, concise writing isn't achieved by doing one big thing. It's achieved by doing lots of little things.