A year ago, during an English Language Teaching (ELT) workshop I asked the participants to write a paragraph on the characteristics of a good piece of writing. One participant wrote, One of the characteristics of a good piece of writing is succinctness. It means the piece of writing should be concise, crisp, terse, tight, economical and to the point… ” The second sentence contradicts the first sentence because it is not succinct. The five adjectives and the phrase in the sentence are synonyms of ‘succinct’.
Many of us are unaware that we are verbose at times. If we analyse samples of our speech and writing we will realise that we have used redundant expressions. Learners of English erroneously think that being wordy is a characteristic of a good writer.
The fact is that verbosity makes one’s writing weaker. Many Statements of Purpose (SOP) and CVs have been rejected because of verbosity.
In the age of tweets and SMSes, being wordy is considered a sin. A good writer or speaker is expected to be succinct. A message is said to be succinct if it is brief and clear.
As a tweet contains a limited number of characters there is no room for wordiness. According to a report in The Telegraph, ‘Previously, including a web link cut the number of characters available in each tweet from the full 140 to 120.
Now when Twitter members want to share a URL there are only 118 left in which to add commentary.’
Here are some examples of redundancy:
1. I don’t accept free gifts from training companies.
2. Here you can buy all foreign imported mobile phones.
3. It is absolutely essential for all teachers to complete marking the tests by 15 September 2014.
4. Were they given advance warning?
5. She got a big affirmative yes to the proposal.
6. Prepare a brief summary of the event and send it to me by email.
7. If you have any alternative choice, please let me know.
8. After a careful scrutiny, we decided to buy the laptop.
9. I request you all to cooperate together and complete the work in time.
10. During the course of my presentation, I’ll explain the different steps.
11. Is he a bald-headed man?
12. Are your decisions based on advance planning?
The phrases in bold are redundant. For example, a gift by definition is something that is given free. The 12 sentences above will be succinct if the words or phrases in bold are omitted.
A person who is verbose suffers from “diarrhoea of words and constipation of ideas”. The remedy for this malady is the regular practice of concision in writing.
It’s not my accent, but my brevity that makes me stylish — Amit Kalantri.