No More “Those”

Conciseness SicknessSome time long ago, a disease called wordiness began to spread among writers. In informal speech and writing, we use filler words, overly complex verbs, redundant word pairs, long or cumbersome phrases, clich├ęs, and other devices that unnecessarily bloat our sentences.

In academic and other formal writing, one challenge is to reduce this wordiness whenever possible. The benefits of doing so are improved readability and often specificity and clarity.

Because conciseness is such an important theme in academic writing, I am developing some video lessons on them. Occasionally, however, I will post brief examples so that you can begin to look for ways to reduce wordiness in your own writing.

Today’s example is the word those. In some cases, the word is helpful and even necessary. But any time that you use the word, double check to see if you really need it–often, we can simply delete it without any loss in meaning, emphasis, or effect.

Here is one example:

The individuals who agreed to participate in the survey were those who had at least a high school education.

What does the word those contribute to the sentence? Not only does the word not add meaning, the small emphasis that it provides is unnecessary, and by using the word those, the writer has forced himself or herself to use an indirect, wordy sentence structure. If you make yourself avoid the word those, you will have to restructure the sentence, most likely in a more concise way. Here are two ideas to improve the sentence while retaining the idea (the second option retains a bit of emphasis, if needed or desired):

All participants had at least a high school education.Only individuals with a high school education participated in the survey.

That’s it for today. I’ll periodically post some other tidbits on conciseness as they come up. Best wishes with your writing for now!

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Rocky Citro

Hi, my name is Rocky, and I am a technical academic editor with over a decade experience editing for professors and graduate students in prestigious universities. I have also taught writing at the graduate and undergraduate level and have several years' TEFL teaching experience.