How to Eliminate Wordiness

Teaching Students How to Eliminate Wordiness

Have you ever wondered how to teach upper elementary students the art of concise writing and effectively eliminate wordiness? As professional writers understand, editing and rewriting are vital to achieving this goal. This blog post will delve into four essential areas to focus on when revising for conciseness, enabling students to master eliminating wordiness from their compositions. By implementing these strategies, students will refine their writing, making it clear, impactful, and free from unnecessary jargon.

Teaching the Concept

Rather than overwhelming students with lengthy lists of examples, we’ll provide a few illustrative cases accompanied by explanations. The goal is to teach students the concept of eliminating wordiness and encourage them to apply these principles to their writing.

By honing their ability to recognize and remove unnecessary words, students will significantly enhance the clarity and impact of their compositions.

Be sure to get the handout. It includes the link to the Google Slides.

How to Eliminate Wordiness Rules

Rule 1: Redundant Pairs

Redundant Pairs

Redundant pairs occur when unnecessary repetition is used. For instance, instead of saying “tuna fish,” one can use “tuna.” Here are a few more examples:

  • return again (return)
  • general consensus (consensus)
  • revert back (revert)
  • personal friend (friend)

Rule 2: Explain the Obvious

Explain the Obvious

Encourage students to remove words and phrases that state the obvious or reiterate implied information. For instance, rather than saying “Bill sat down in the chair,” it is sufficient to write, “Bill sat in the chair.”

Here is another example.

My friend and I split a piece of cheesecake between us.

Rule 3: Unnecessary Modifiers and Determiners

Unnecessary Modifiers and Determiners

Students often clutter their writing with unnecessary modifiers and determiners. Here are some examples to look for during the editing process:

  • kind of
  • sort of
  • type of
  • really
  • basically
  • for all intents and purposes
  • definitely
  • actually

Any particular type of beach chair is fine with me.

Any particular type of beach chair is fine with me.

The box was completely full of clothes.

Here is an example:

She went on a very long walk across the really long meadow.

This sentence would be edited to say…

She strolled across the vast meadow.

Rule 4: Repetitive Wording

Repetitive Wording

Students should be mindful of repetitive words or phrases within the same paragraph. Let’s examine a couple of examples:

  • “I woke up about midnight because of a loud sound that woke me up.”
  • “It was a dark and stormy night. During the night, I had a nightmare about thunder and lightning. Suddenly, a loud crash of lightning woke me up. It was a stormy night for me.”
  • The box was completely full of clothes.

Often unnecessary modifiers can be replaced with stronger adjectives. 

Guiding Rules to Eliminate Wordiness

  1. Keep it simple: Encourage students to use clear, concise language, emphasizing that shorter sentences often outshine longer ones. By distilling their ideas into fewer words, students can communicate more effectively.
  2. Avoid repetition: Guide students to steer clear of repetitive words and phrases. Suggest alternatives such as synonyms or rephrasing to maintain variety in their writing.
  3. Eliminate unnecessary words: Teach students to identify and eliminate unnecessary words or phrases. For example, instead of saying “in my opinion,” they can say “I think,” conveying the same meaning with fewer words.
  4. Use active voice: Encourage students to utilize active voice whenever possible. This approach helps eradicate wordiness and infuses their writing with greater engagement and clarity.
  5. Use strong verbs: Emphasize the importance of strong verbs that convey meaning. By doing so, students can reduce the need for additional words or phrases to describe actions or emotions.
  6. Avoid empty words and phrases: Train students to avoid using empty words and phrases that add no substantive meaning to their writing. Examples include “very,” “really,” and “quite.” Encourage them to choose stronger, more precise language instead.
  7. Use transitions: Teach students to incorporate transitions to connect their ideas seamlessly. This practice helps maintain a smooth flow in their writing and eliminates the need for unnecessary words or phrases to bridge gaps between sentences or paragraphs.

By eliminating wordiness, upper elementary teachers can empower their students to become more effective and concise writers. The provided guidelines and examples will equip students with the tools to recognize, locate, and eliminate unnecessary words, resulting in more precise and impactful compositions. As students master these techniques, their writing will not only impress their teachers but also engage and captivate their readers. Embrace the power of concise expression and witness your students’ writing skills flourish!

Gay Miller

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