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Essay Writing Tips: Make Every Word Count

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 1/17/2012

Stop wasting words and start improving your writing.

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    Essay Writing Tips: Trust Words

    Out of all the essay writing tips I could give, this one is most important: Eliminate wordiness. The following essay writing tips will help you do just that:

    1. Eliminate unnecessary, redundant modifiers that aren't needed:
      • For example, a dishonest thief (all thieves are dishonest); a terrible tragedy (tragedies are terrible by definition); a joyous celebration (you get the point).
    2. Get rid of unnecessary categories:
      • For example, brown in color (we already know that brown is a color); dull in appearance; a confused state.
    3. Don't use pairs of words when a single word will do:
      • For example, each and every (both words mean about the same thing); I want any and all individuals who cheated to come here (either any or all would suffice).
    4. Use single words in place of wordy expressions:
      • For example, instead of at this point in time, try now. Instead of she exceeds ordinary standards, try she is excellent.
    5. Delete meaningless intensifiers and hedges. Make sure words like very, often, somewhat, perhaps, and others add meaning.
      • For example, there is no difference between being skeptical and being somewhat skeptical, very tired and exhausted, and kind of stupid and stupid.
    6. Don't overuse articles and indefinite pronouns.
      • For example, I teach the students math should be I teach students math.
    7. Cut off endings of sentences.
      • For example, I want to reduce the number of F's that I am receiving. Let's fix the broken pipes that leak water. Teachers should respond to questions that students ask.
    8. Use active verbs instead of nominalizations.
      • For example, Instead of I'll take it into consideration, try I'll consider it. Instead of I have chosen W.E. Wapskuller as my nomination for student body president, try I nominate W.E. Wapskuller.
    9. Avoid needless complexity.
      • For example, Instead of It has often been said by scholars and non scholars alike that the famous playwrite William Shakespeare certainly beyond a shadow of a doubt writes some great plays, try William Shakespeare writes great plays.
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    How to Implement these Essay Writing Tips

    1. Change your attitude about essay writing. Stop using filler words. If your goal in writing an essay is to use the assigned number of words, then you will continue to write boring essays. You will never get better, and you will live a writing life of mediocrity. Intend to say something. Make every word count.
    2. Write more than is necessary. If the assignment calls for 2 pages, write 3-4 pages. If the assignment is 500 words, write 800 words.
    3. Edit for economy. Trim the excess. Begin by deleting entire sections or paragraphs, ones that do not add meaning or are not relevant. Eliminate sentences or phrases that contribute little or are redundant. Get rid of unnecessary words. Pretend you are a security guard and all modifiers (adjectives, adverbs, articles, etc.) are potential intruders. Make sure they belong. Finally, eliminate unnecessary words. You'll notice you can say the same using 500 words that you did using 800 words.
    4. Observe how improved your writing becomes. Once you form the habit of trusting your words, you'll notice not having to cut as much. You'll begin saying twice as much in half the time.