3 Ways to Make Sentences More Concise

By Mark Nichol

Sentences need not be pared down to essentials—the challenge is to make them as coherent as possible, not as concise as possible—but careful writers will craft and revise their writing in part by minimizing the number of words necessary to convey their thoughts. Three simple strategies are demonstrated in discussions of and revisions to the following examples of sentences that can and should be improved.

1. The board needs to be assured that management has not allowed overconfidence to be bred by past successes.

Make the sentence active. Two of the three nouns in this sentence are active rather than passive, but successes can be an actor, too: “The board needs to be assured that management has not allowed past successes to breed overconfidence.”

2. The hot spots described below are areas in which providers are commonly at risk for losing revenue. They include patient access, utilization review, charge capture, and billing and payment accuracy.

Fold one sentence into another. When a subsequent sentence provides details pertaining to a previous sentence, that sentence, if brief and simple enough, can often be embedded seamlessly in the first sentence as a parenthetical: “The hot spots described below—patient access, utilization review, charge capture, and billing and payment accuracy—are areas in which providers are commonly at risk for losing revenue.”

3. Scalability also considers the robustness of the processes and controls, and whether they are automated or not.

Omit nonessential words. In this context, “or not” is extraneous; whether, in and of itself, suggests a binary choice: “Scalability also considers the robustness of the processes and controls and whether they are automated.” (“Or not” is sometimes a necessary companion of whether: The test is that if regardless can replace whether, the entire phrase is required.)

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1 Response to “3 Ways to Make Sentences More Concise”

  • Michael W. Perry

    Great advice. I’d point out another useful tip hidden in the second example. If there is a clause that you want to emphasize, rewrite to allow you to set it off with m-dashes. Here’s that example:

    “The hot spots described below—patient access, utilization review, charge capture, and billing and payment accuracy—are areas in which providers are commonly at risk for losing revenue.”

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