Being Concise

BEING CONCISE / AVOIDING FLUFF

Good writing does not waste time or words, but over and over, students seem to believe that the longer the word count is in the sentence, the better the sentence is. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Sure, some of the time, a more complicated sentence is, in fact, more informative or better, but any time you are inflating your sentences with empty words, you are coating your sentences in fluff.

People typically do deploy fluffy sentences in a transparent effort to make themselves sound smarter, following the fallacy that if a sentence has more words, it must be BETTER. Not true. If a word or phrase does not add anything, lose it. Here’s an example: A phrase that stinks of fluff, which you should eliminate from your writing in every instance, is “the fact that”. This phrase, and his mutant cousin, “Due to the fact that,” never add any meaning to their sentences. Just fluff. Instead of saying “The fact that his brother dies bothers Holden” could be “His brother’s death bothers Holden.”

Here are some fluffy sentences. Reduce them down as much as you can, without losing any clarity, and write how many words you used when you are done.
1.There will not be an attempt made to solve this problem, which is very difficult. (15 words)

2.This is not surprising when one considers the history of this movement. (12)

3.It is my speculation that the opponents of new historicism are still fighting a battle that they cannot possibly win. (20)

4.The survey was sent to faculty at all campuses of the Penn State University system. (15)

5.If patients are unable to decide for themselves regarding medical decisions, family members may express the patient’s wishes. (18)

6.Developed countries are receiving graduate students in increasing numbers every year from underdeveloped countries. (14)

7.The author took part in the creation and implementation of the study and in particular in the design of the survey instrument. (22)

Now, the DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND of FLUFF…

Get it out of your system for the last time. You hear me? THE LAST TIME. “Fluffify” the following sentences. Without adding any description or words worth reading, add as many words as possible. (For example = “The house is red” might become “The family residence could best be described as having a reddish hue.” But if you said, “The two-story run-down house is red,” then you have actually added material that enhances the original sentence.)

The cat ate the sandwich that I made. (8)

Nobody forgets Clara’s birthday. (4)

The Yankees lost the game. (5)

Many animals live in the park. (6)

She died. (2)
(make sure you are adding fluff and not rambling tangents)

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