Try this for an example of imprecise or bloated writing:

The species in the body of water were found to be in a state of pronounced morbidity.

How about?

All the fish died.

Gets directly to the point, right?

That’s what your writing should strive to do. You’re the tour guide on your readers’ journey. Make the trip for them easy and enjoyable. Unclear, bloated, or meandering writing leads readers down a path that’s difficult to follow. 

You can do that by eliminating prepositional phrases, redundancies, and needless modifiers. Rather than “is able to” how about “can”? Or rather than “added bonus” how about “bonus”? Or, a newspaper editor’s favorite, “completely destroyed.” Nope. Simply “destroyed.”

Concise and clear writing also means using the active voice. Passive voice leads to confusing syntax, extended phrases, and unintended meanings. It leaves readers wondering what you’re trying to convey.

So, what should you avoid? Passive verbs such as: is, are, was, were, am, be, and been.

Which sentence is more clear and concise?

In her manuscript, there are many passive verbs being used.


Her manuscript uses many passive verbs.

Concise, clear writing also avoids cliches. Like the plague. Sorry.

If you think you’ve read or heard something before, chances are you have. Cliches were once a bright, shiny way to describe something. But overuse resulted in that clever, original phrasing losing its lustre and novelty. Cliches, unless you’re using them to describe a particularly uninspired, galling character in your manuscript, are trite and hackneyed. 

We can’t leave cliches, though, without honoring what must be a world record for the most cliches in a single sentence. Capital Community College in Hartford, Conn., found this beauty by a former mayor of Austin, Texas. And it’s real. We promise.

“I wanted all my ducks in a row, so if we did get into a posture, we could pretty much slam-dunk this thing and put it to bed.”

Four cliches in one 26-word sentence.

Gotta be a record.