Wordiness

Too many words—like too many cooks—spoil the sentence broth.

Don't you just hate reading papers that put in a bunch of unnecessary words in order to reach some word limit that is left unknown to you? We are here to let you know that the reason these two sentences are here is because we are trying to show you how annoying wordiness can be.

Yup: the previous two sentences were examples of excessive wordiness. Also, too many words—like Too Many Cookssound kind of insane and unhinged.

In everyday life, we have to use certain phrases to soften bad news or to grab people's attention. Unfortunately, because we do it quite often verbally, it tends to slip into our writing, too.

Examples of wordiness:

  • advance warning
  • past experience
  • SAT test
  • personally, I think/feel
  • the year 2036
  • poisonous venom
  • surrounded on all sides
  • end result
  • new innovations
  • summarize briefly

Why is Wordiness Bad?

The Reason Wordiness Is Bad Is Because…

Take the lethally wordy combination of the reason and is because, for example. This repetitive duo is a great example of what want to eliminate in your writing: redundancy.

What do we mean? We'll show you.

Let's say your friend is gaga about grammar. You could say "The reason you love grammar is because you love rules." Of course, if you said that, you'd be Captain Redundant of the S.S. Repetitive. If you're telling us the reason, you don't need because.

If you told your friend The reason you love grammar is that you love rules it would be a step in the right direction because it cuts out the because… but it's still too wordy.

So try this one on for size: You love grammar because you love rules. Perfect! You'll notice that because has snuck its way back in there, but that's a-okay because we've nixed the reason.

You love grammar because you love rules is clear, concise, and thoroughly magnificent, just like your grammar-loving pal. She has good taste.

 

Examples

"Alec's eyes are very blue in color."

As opposed to being very blue in texture? We kid, we kid. But this sentence is still wickedly wordy. Blue is a color, so you don't need to say in color.

"Elaine is camping out in front of Best Buy in order to be the first person in line for the new Playstation."

This sentence is wordy because of in order. We simply don't need it. Instead, we could say Elaine is camping out in front of Best Buy to be first in line for the new Playstation.

See what we did there? We cut out person, too. It may be presumptuous, but we're pretty sure all of the folks in line with Elaine will be people, too (at least until the robot overlords take over), so the distinction that she'll be the first person is unnecessary.

"Kait only packed the basic important essentials for the camping trip at Lake Tahoe."

Nope. Nope nope nope. The essentials for a camping trip (which are, um, graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate, right? Right?) are already important. They're what you need at the most basic level. You only need to say "essentials." That word packs a lot in… unlike Kait, whose backpack is probably pretty light.

 

Common mistakes

We would be doing you a disservice if we didn't talk about redundant acronyms.

We're talking about wordy offenders like ATM machine or PIN number. The M in ATM stands for machine, so you don't need to say it again. And what do you think the N in PIN stands for? Here's a hint: it's not nachos. Just saying the acronym might sound wrong, but it's correct. You could always just write out the whole thing, too.

Keep an eye out for absolute adjectives like dead, unique, or perfect. You can't be a little bit dead or kind of perfect, so don't add unnecessary modifiers.

Except…

To be fair, stuff like that has made its way into common usage enough that we at Shmoop don't hate on it too much. Just remember: when it's grammar quiz time, even Shmoop isn't super unique.