Humanities › English 5 Ways to Cut the Clutter in Writing Share Flipboard Email Print Orin Zebest / Flickr English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated February 26, 2019 "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil," Truman Capote once said. In other words, what we cut out of our writing is sometimes more important than what we put in. So let's continue to cut the clutter. How do we stop wasting words and get to the point? Here are five more strategies to apply when revising and editing essays, memos, and reports. Use Active Verbs Whenever possible, make the subject of a sentence do something. Wordy: The grant proposals were reviewed by the students.Revised: The students reviewed the grant proposals. Don't Try to Show Off As Leonardo da Vinci observed, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Don't presume that big words or lengthy phrases will impress your readers: often the simplest word is the best. Wordy: At this moment in time, students who are matriculating through high school should be empowered to participate in the voting process.Revised: High school students should have the right to vote. Cut Empty Phrases Some of the most common phrases mean little, if anything, and should be cut from our writing: all things being equalall things consideredas a matter of factas far as I am concernedat the end of the dayat the present timedue to the fact thatfor all intents and purposesfor the most partfor the purpose ofin a manner of speakingin my opinionin the event ofin the final analysisit seems thatthe point that I am trying to maketype ofwhat I am trying to saywhat I want to make clear Wordy: All things being equal, what I am trying to say is that in my opinion all students should, in the final analysis, have the right to vote for all intents and purposes.Revised: Students should have the right to vote. Avoid Using Noun Forms of Verbs The fancy name for this process is "excessive nominalization." Our advice is simple: give verbs a chance. Wordy: The presentation of the arguments by the students was convincing.Revised: The students presented their arguments convincingly. Or . . .The students argued convincingly. Replace Vague Nouns Replace vague nouns (such as area, aspect, case, factor, manner, situation, something, thing, type, and way) with more specific words—or eliminate them altogether. Wordy: After reading several things in the area of psychology-type subjects, I decided to put myself in a situation where I might change my major.Revised: After reading several psychology books, I decided to change my major.