Have you watched someone give a speech that went on and on, and you thought, “I could have said that in a couple of sentences?” We all know how annoying wordiness can be, from hearing a neighbor talk about her cat to a Facebook friend’s disgustingly romantic, way-to-long post about her incredible boyfriend.
In the academic world, wordiness is a big problem, known to turn amazing ideas into confusion and hide great points in a deep mound of words. When you have a long paper and not enough information, adding extra filler words seems to be the logical solution, but it is rarely the best solution.
One type of wordiness that is common in academic papers involves too much description. Although vivid description is good, even necessary, overdoing it can be overwhelming. For instance, you could say A small, loud, stubborn, blonde, nine-year-old girl ran to the run-down, brown, busy store down the short road from her white, newly-built, two-story home with the red Ford truck in the gravel driveway. This is very detailed, but it is a lot to throw at the reader all at once. You should select the most important details, such as The nine-year-old girl ran to the store down the road from her house. You can mention other details later, if they are necessary.
Another form of wordiness occurs when a writer gives too much information. What would you think if you read the following sentence: The new gym teacher, who teaches physical education, just started working at the school, and she coaches the basketball teams for both genders, boys and girls. Do you feel frustrated? It’s obvious that a new teacher recently started working at a school, a gym teacher teaches physical education, and both genders means boys and girls. Don’t underestimate your reader. If something is obvious, there is no need to say it in two different ways.
Another wordy condition that can affect college students is thesaurusitis. This occurs when students use complicated words to express their ideas, usually because they want to sound smart. A great example of this comes from ‘90s television. In one episode of Friends, Joey writes a recommendation letter in which he calls Chandler and Monica humid, prepossessing Homo sapiens with full-sized aortic pumps. Joey was trying to say that they were warm, nice people with big hearts. Although it’s fine to use complex words within reason, make sure they do not bog down your ideas. Clarity is the most important thing in writing. After all, why use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice?
Although avoiding wordiness may be fine in principle, it is tough to do when you’re dealing with minimum word counts and page limits. When you find yourself with extra space and not much to say, avoid the temptation to include filler words. Research some more facts; add some more of your own thoughts. Your reader will appreciate the effort.
WarnerJordanEducation. “Word Choice – Friends – Adoption Letter.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 5 Feb. 2012. Web. 5 Nov. 2014.