Eliminating Wordiness

Long, complex English sentences are difficult to read. Multiple such sentences can make a paragraph difficult to follow. Because English provides so many different structures for creating sentences, it can be easy for a sentence to “get away” from you. If you find yourself constructing very long sentences on a regular basis, you should look for ways to simplify those sentences.

Here’s an example of a needlessly wordy sentence:

Although Hearst Hall is regularly populated by students, close examination of the building as a structure is seldom undertaken by them.

There’s a lot going on in this sentence, so let’s examine it piece by piece. First, we have a rather long subordinate clause that introduces “Hearst Hall” and the “students.” Next, we have “close examination” as the subject of the independent clause. Then, we have the passive voice construction “is seldom undertaken” as the main verb. Finally, the students reappear as the object pronoun “them.”

To simplify this sentence, we need to identify its core ideas:

  • A place called Hearst Hall
  • Filled with students
  • Students do not examine Hearst as a structure

Now let’s rewrite the sentence so that it conveys just these core ideas:

Hearst Hall is usually filled with students who do not examine the building as a structure.

As you can see, we’ve eliminated the subordinate clause altogether. “Hearst Hall” is now the subject and “is usually filled” functions as the verb. The “students” are the direct object, and “who do not examine the building as a structure” is the indirect object.

Here are a couple more examples of wordy sentences:

Some people prefer group classes, while other people prefer one-on-one classes; there are many options for classes at the English Island in Atlanta to meet the needs of both groups.

Workplace inefficiency is caused when people deviate from standardized procedures that have been set up for the benefit of all.

And here are their simplified counterparts:

The English Island offers both small group and one-one classes.

Disobeying standardized procedures causes workplace efficiency to drop.