Write Better Sentences by Deleting Clutter

Sentences stuffed with filler sound silly or (even worse) condescending to your readers. You should take care not to be repetitive. It bores your readers, and wastes their time. Concise writing sounds strong and confident. Take a look at this sentence:

In my opinion, I think that homework should possibly be considered for banning, perhaps.

Compare that clunker with this sentence:

Homework should be banned.

Version 1 fumbles around, hat in hand. Version 2 hits you right on the nose.

Take out your pruning shears and give this paragraph a trim. Your answer should include all the information of the original, expressed with fewer words.

When my elderly grandmother reached the age of 90, she found that her glasses, which helped her eyesight, didn't work as well as they had in previous years. She proceeded to travel to the optometrist, where her eyes were tested and measured as to how much she could see. Grandma tried on several pairs of fashionable frames of the latest style. She chose a gold metal frame by the famous designer, Sebastian Icare, who artistically decides how the frames should look. (81 words)

Answer: Many answers are possible. Here’s one:

When my grandmother was 90, her glasses didn’t work as well as they once had. The optometrist tested her eyes. Grandma tried on several fashionable pairs and chose a gold frame by the famous designer, Sebastian Icare. (37 words)

Her’s what was cut and why

  • If she's 90, the reader knows she’s elderly.

  • Glasses help eyesight. There’s a fact you couldn’t figure out by yourself!

  • The verb had tells you that the action you’re discussing (how well the glasses worked for Grandma) is prior to time when Grandma discovered the problem. So in previous years isn’t needed.

  • It’s not likely that the optometrist made a house call (not in this century — actually, not in this universe!). You don’t have to explain that she proceeded to travel to the optometrist.

  • Tested and measured are the same in this context.

  • Fashionable and of the latest style are the same.

  • Gold is a metal. Don’t state the obvious.

  • Icare is a designer, so his job is to decide how the frames should look.

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