Engaging Writing: Avoiding Wordiness and Redundancy

Last updated: 4/19/2016


Visual: The words “Walden University Writing Center” and the Walden University Writing Center logo on a blank page of a notebook with a pencil. The slogan “Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears. The screen shifts to present the words “Engaging Writing” with the title “Avoiding Wordiness and Redundancy” underneath.

Audio: Music plays.


Visual: A new slide appears titled “DON’T: Wordiness.” On the slide there are screenshots of papers showing how writing can be revised to share the same main idea, but with fewer words. The first sample reads: “Accelerated Reader (AR) and Accelerated Math (AM) are curriculum-based instructional software monitoring systems produced by Renaissance Learning, Inc. that support differentiated instruction and assist education professionals in meeting the diverse needs of their student populations.” In a circle next to this passage is the number “35,” indicating how many words there are. The revised passage reads: “Accelerated Reader (AR) and Accelerated Math (AM), examples of Renaissance Learning, Inc.’s assessment tools, support differentiated instruction and assist teachers in meeting diverse needs of students.” Next to this passage is the number “27,” indicating how many words there are.

There is a second example on the slide as well. The first version reads: “In conjunction with the formal diagnostic curriculum-based instructional software monitoring system, AM is comprised of utilizing the classroom mathematics textbook and computer-generated mathematics exercises individually produced for students’ individual mathematic skill levels.” This passage has 32 words, which appears in a circle next to the passage. The revised passage reads: “In conjunction with the assessment tools, AM uses the classroom mathematics textbook and students’ individual computer-generated exercises to test mathematic skill level.” This revised passage has 22 words.

Audio: Don't be overly wordy. You don't need to use twice as many words to say the same thing if a smaller number of words is going to be sufficient. So beware, as you're writing.  I think a lot of times when we think about academic writing, we think, “I have to sound smart. I have to put lots of words in there. I have oh, to put lots of big words in there.” That's not always the case.

When you want to really engage your reader, you want to sound as if you know what you're talking about most definitely, and you want to be evidence-based and research-based if you're doing your research project. But you can do that in a very direct and concise way. You don't have to use extra words.

So we have a few examples here.


Visual: The slide changes to one titled “DON’T: Wordiness” with a definition underneath. The definition reads, “Unnecessary adverbs like very and really often give a sentence an informal, embellished tone. If you feel the need to add adverbs, you may actually need to add more information or examples to illustrate or emphasize a point.” Below this are examples which the narrator reads.

Audio: One thing that comes up with wordiness, a lot, are unnecessary words like "very" and "really." These not only make your writing wordy, but they also kind of give an emotional feel to your writing, and so you want to avoid, you know, putting any kind of emotion like that into your writing. While you might be passionate about the subject, you still want to maintain an objective, authorial distance as the author of the work.

So instead of saying, "the teachers were very well informed" you could say "the teachers were well informed as illustrated by the lengthy discussion they had about the English Language Learners." Here we know why they were well informed. It may even have more words to describe something, but it's --it's much more precise, and specific.

So instead of saying, "the manager really understood his employees." You could say "the manager understood his employees in depth, valuing them as people as well as employees." So again, you know, you may actually use more words to be more specific, and that's okay. But it's definitely to your benefit to avoid any unnecessary words. And very and really are often used in that way.


Visual: The slide changes to one that is titled, “DON’T: Circumlocution.” Beneath this is a definition that reads, “Circumlocution is a roundabout way of saying what you want to say (using several words to say something simple)” Under that is an example, which the narrator reads.

Audio: Also circumlocution is another word that goes into wordiness. Talking about wordiness, that’s really wordy! It's really another way to say that you're talking around the point instead of getting to it.

So in the example here, instead of saying that, "the woman was the patient, had lived 30 years, and was located in an area outside of New York City but not far away." You could simply say, "the female patient was 30 years old and lived in a New York City suburb." You can see there's a difference here. Instead of talking around the idea, just saying it directly is always the best way to go. It avoids sort of that circular reasoning and those roundabout explanations.


Visual: The slide changes to one titled, “DON’T: Wordiness” with a definition under it reading, “Redundancy refers to repeated information. While sometimes useful to link sections or ideas, avoid repeating information when unnecessary.” There is an example under, which the narrator reads.

Audio:  Redundancy is another thing that happens when we think about wordiness. And redundancy means unnecessary repetition. If you don't need to repeat it, don't. There's no need for it. So instead of repeating information, even if it's in the next sentence, it's just a good idea to be specific and try to group your information together in a way that all of the information related to a certain topic is all in one place. And then you don't have to go back and repeat unnecessarily.

So you can see an example of this here. Where we talk about, it says, "to be a counselor, it is important to have good listening skills for counseling patients. As good listening skills for counseling patients leads to better understanding of a patient, which, as a counselor, is the entire purpose of a counseling session."

You can see even in that example, the word "counselor," "listening skills," "good listening,” "good counseling" are repeated multiple times. And as a reader, I find that very difficult to articulate, even just reading it out loud.

So, again, being precise and specific will help there.


Visual: The words “Walden University Writing Center” and the Walden University Writing Center logo on a blank page of a notebook with a pencil. In the middle it says, “Questions? E-mail writingsupport@mail.waldenu.edu.”