Concise Writing: Tips and Tricks

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.
Blaise Pascal, French philosopher and mathematician

Tips for writing concisely by Danielle Perry, GWC Tutor

Writing concisely is an important aspect of scientific writing and a skill that takes practice to develop. Being concise can help you reach your audience more directly and effectively. The following post provides helpful tips from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center to achieve clear, concise, and direct writing.

  1. Use the active voice, when possible

Using strong active verbs leads to direct and concise sentences.

Passive: It was instructed by the professor that the assignments must be submitted by the due date.

Active: The professor instructed that the assignment be submitted by the due date. 

Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that climate change can be caused by air pollution.

Active: Early studies demonstrated that air pollution can cause climate change.


  1. Put the action of the sentence in the verb.

Try to avoid making verbs into nouns by adding –tion

Example: An evaluation of the methods needs to be done.

Instead: The methods need to be evaluated.


We need to evaluate the methods.


  1. Reduce wordy verbs/phrases.
    • is aware, has knowledge of –> knows
    • is taking –> takes
    • are indications –> indicates
    • are suggestive –> suggests


  1. Use phrases like “It is,” “There is,” “There are,” etc. moderately.

Example:  It was the final result that finally persuaded me.

Instead: The final result finally persuaded me.  


  1. Remember to eliminate unnecessary words.

Example: There are likely to be many researchers that raise questions about this methodological approach.

Instead: Many researchers are likely to question this methodology.


  1. Try avoiding vague, all-purpose nouns that can lead to wordiness.

Such as: area, aspect, situation, consideration, degree, case, field

Example: Research is increasing in the field of nutrition and food science.

Instead: Research is increasing in nutrition and food science.


Research within nutrition and food science is increasing.


  1. Eliminate unnecessary prepositional phrases, which increases sentence length.

Example: The focus of this project was to study the effects of sea level rise on coastal habitats.

Instead: This project examined how sea level rise affects coastal habitats.

Example: The opinion of the group is…

Instead: The group’s opinion is…

Example: The research of wetland restoration…

Instead: Wetland restoration research …


  1. Use –ing words sparingly

–ing words can decrease sentence strength and increase wordiness.

Example: The students were researching climate change impacts

Instead: The students researched climate change impacts.


  1. Shorten/Rephrase wordy phrases

Instead of…


The reason for

because, since, why

The reason that


Due to the fact that                                        


Considering the fact that


On the grounds that


This is why




Despite the fact that

although, even though

Regardless of the fact that                             




In the event that


Under circumstances in which




On the occasion of


In a situation in which


Under circumstances in which




As regards


In reference to


With regard to


Concerning the matter of


Where…is concerned            




Is able to


Has the opportunity to


Is in a position to


Has the capacity for


Has the ability to






It is possible that

may, might, can, or could

There is a chance that


It could happen that




Prior to

before, after, simultaneously

In anticipation of


Following on


At the same time as                           


*This list was adopted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center from Joseph Williams, Style: Ten Lesson in Clarity and Grace. 3rd ed. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1989.


Follow this link, Grammar and style notes for scientific writing, for more helpful writing tips. And, be sure to schedule an appointment at the Graduate Writing Center if you would like help making your own writing more concise.