Skip to main content

Changing Phrases

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

1. Change phrases into single-words and adjectives

Using phrases to convey meaning that could be presented in a single word contributes to wordiness. Convert phrases into single words when possible.

Wordy: The employee with ambition... (4 words)
Concise: The ambitious employee... (3 words)
Wordy: The department showing the best performance... (6 words)
Concise: The best-performing department... (4 words)
Wordy: Jeff Converse, our chief of consulting, suggested at our last board meeting the installation of microfilm equipment in the department of data processing. (23 words)
Concise: At our last board meeting, Chief Consultant Jeff Converse suggested that we install microfilm equipment in the data processing department. (20 words)
Wordy: We read the letter we received yesterday and reviewed it thoroughly.
Concise: We thoroughly read the letter we received yesterday.
Wordy: As you carefully read what you have written to improve your wording and catch small errors of spelling, punctuation, and so on, the thing to do before you do anything else is to try to see where a series of words expressing action could replace the ideas found in nouns rather than verbs. (53 words)
Concise: As you edit, first find nominalizations that you can replace with verb phrases. (13 words)

2. Change unnecessary that, who, and which clauses into phrases

Using a clause to convey meaning that could be presented in a phrase or even a word contributes to wordiness. Convert modifying clauses into phrases or single words when possible.

Wordy: The report, which was released recently... (6 words)
Concise: The recently released report... (4 words)
Wordy: All applicants who are interested in the job must... (9 words)
Concise: All job applicants must... (4 words)
Wordy: The system that is most efficient and accurate... (8 words)
Concise: The most efficient and accurate system... (6 words)'

3. Change Passive Verbs into Active Verbs

See our document on active and passive voice for a more thorough explanation of this topic.

Wordy: An account was opened by Mrs. Simms. (7 words)
Concise: Mrs. Simms opened an account. (5 words)
Wordy: Your figures were checked by the research department. (8 words)
Concise: The research department checked your figures. (6 words)