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Writing concisely: A short guide

A guide to help you get your point across succinctly.

What is concise writing?

When you write at university, tutors expect you to write concisely, by which they mean something like "Getting your point across with as few words as possible, and with no unnecessary material."

What do I need to focus on to make my writing more concise?

Use concise language, sentences and punctuation.

Reduce wordiness. For example, "of paramount importance" simply means "important".

Train yourself to improve your punctuation.

Missing or misplaced punctuation can affect the clarity of your academic writing. If the tutor has to waste time making sense of your sentences, they will not concentrate on your ideas. If you are unclear about how to use commas, semicolons and colons, look at the ASC publication Short Guide to Punctuation.

Always be aware of long sentences.

Long sentences are more difficult to understand. There is no rule that says how long a sentence should be, and it is helpful to have a mixture of shorter and longer ones. However, if the sentences are too long, your points will get lost. It is a good idea to be especially aware of:

  • sentences with too many clauses
  • fragments which do not have a subject and are therefore not actually sentences. In the following example, for instance, a sentence is followed by a fragment.
    • This project was "real life research", and it formed part of a larger in-house study of patient and carer issues. Which aimed to identify a range of unmet patient needs.
  • ‚Äčin this example the text 'Which aimed to identify a range of unmet patient needs' is not a sentence'

Ensure that your structure is logical and easy to follow.

Edit objectively and rigorously

  • Editing is not a job to be just done once. It requires several stages. This Guide gives a suggested strategy that clearly distinguishes between writing your work and then editing it. Editing is a completely separate process.

Download a PDF version of this Guide

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