The careful writer always reviews their prose, and one of the qualities they aspire to demonstrate is conciseness, or brevity of expression. Revision of the following wordy sentences, accompanied by commentary about the revision, provides specific examples of the types of verbosities to eliminate.
1. There are seventy-seven industry-specific codified standards, launched in November 2018 at the London Stock Exchange, that are available on the agency’s website. The seventy-seven industries are arrayed among eleven sectors.
One of the most obvious opportunities to render prose more concise is when information is repeated, sometimes verbatim. Here, the number of industries, each with a specific standard, is referred to twice; in the second sentence, only the number of sectors is new information, and that can be integrated into the slightly revised first sentence as a parenthetical: “Seventy-seven industry-specific codified standards, arrayed among industries in eleven sectors, were launched in November 2018 at the London Stock Exchange and are available on the agency’s website.”
2. If the company and/or its workforce resists change, it will only hamper the company’s growth and success, the result of which will likely be other changes such as restructuring and layoffs.
Here, the momentum of the sentence is halted by the insertion of a pronoun whose antecedent is not immediately apparent. Hidden within the subordinate clause that includes the sentence’s supposed subject, the actual focus of the sentence is relegated to a verb phrase. To reduce the length of the sentence, convert that phrase to a noun phrase, replace the pronoun with the jettisoned subject, and further revise the sentence to make it even more concise: “Resistance to change will only hamper the company’s growth and success, likely resulting in other changes such as restructuring and layoffs.”
3. This is a first-of-its-kind study and has produced a wealth of valuable data about cybersecurity.
This sentence includes two facts that are related—they both pertain to the study—but not relevant to each other. The first fact, that the study is the first of its kind, can remain embedded as a phrasal adjective, but the noun it modifies should replace the weak pronoun this as the subject (although this remains as a modifier for study), rendering the conjunction is and the conjunction and superfluous: “This first-of-its-kind study has produced a wealth of valuable data about cybersecurity.”
4. The possibility of allowing users to self-declare to designated authorities on a voluntary basis is still being considered.
The reference to the possibility of enacting a policy is nearly redundant to the phrase indicating that the policy is being considered, so the sentence can be condensed somewhat by beginning with allowing: “Allowing users to voluntarily self-declare to designated authorities is still being considered.”
Better yet, however, revise the sentence to make it more active in construction. Assuming the identity of the entity considering the policy is known, the following revision is slightly longer than the first effort at amendment but more direct: “The agency is still considering allowing users to voluntarily self-declare to designated authorities.”
5. The practitioner should obtain the patient’s written permission before forwarding health records that contain information of a sensitive nature.
Be alert to the phrase construction “of a . . . nature,” which is easily replaced by one word by relocating the adjective that completes the phrase to immediately before the preceding noun and deleting the rest of the phrase: “The practitioner should obtain the patient’s written permission before forwarding health records that contain sensitive information.”
The phrase “in a . . . manner” is also verbose. However, it is revised differently because it modifies a verb, not a noun, as in “She drove in a reckless manner,” where the adjective reckless is converted to the adverb recklessly before being inserted after drove: “She drove recklessly.” (This is also true of “on a . . . basis.”) Also, this phrase with timely is a special case because, although the word technically functions as both an adjective and an adverb, it is seldom used in the latter role as a more concise version of “in a timely manner,” as in “The letter was delivered timely.” However, synonyms such as promptly, swiftly, and quickly are available as substitutes.
Of the five sentences above, the last is perhaps the most egregiously verbose; “of a . . . nature” and similar constructions are symptomatic of a writer’s misguided efforts to create a formal, authoritative tone, which instead often obscures rather than clarifies. Active, direct, vivid, and concise written expression is effective written expression.