How To Use Specific Language To Write Concisely
Is your writing wordy or boring?
There’s an easy fix.
Be concise by using your words economically.
Word economy–getting your meaning across with as few words as possible.
This practice will improve your prose and pacing. No more slogging through paragraphs of information to get to the action. Even better, concise writing saves you money since editors charge per word.
Vague words increase your word count but hinder the reader from an immersive experience. Replace vague words with specific words instead. If the specific word creates an echo or redundancy, see if you can fit your desired meaning into one sentence instead of two.
For today’s lesson, we’ll make a sample sentence specific and concise without losing the meaning.
Emily was depressed, and she didn’t like it.
“It” is being depressed.
Emily was depressed, and she didn’t like being depressed.
“Depressed” creates an echo because we already used it in the sentence. You can easily change this into one thought.
Emily didn’t like being depressed.
Same meaning. Fewer words.
“Didn’t like” is weak and vague. Let’s show the degree of her dislike with a descriptive verb.
Emily (hated/detested/disliked) being depressed.
“Being depressed” looks like a being verb (which you should remove when possible), but it’s acting as a noun here. Still, nouns should be specific. Let’s trim it.
Emily hated depression.
We just decreased a sentence by 62.5 percent. Imagine what you could do with a whole paragraph, chapter, or book. Use these tips on your narrative and description, but don’t go overboard on your dialogue. If you do, the character’s voice will suffer and sound stilted.
You must practice this skill often, so try the exercise below taken from the rough draft of my upcoming novel You Are The Father. Either pick a sentence or do the whole passage.
Exercise (248 words)
After finishing my first intern assignment, I rushed to the party. For once, I could hear music coming out of the doors, and the place was full, as in packed. I was surprised the fire marshal hadn’t shown up and told people to vacate because we were clearly overcapacity. I looked around, glad for my height, to see over the crowd and spot Scarlett. She had her head back laughing, blue drink swirling in a martini glass. My stomach sank when I noticed the thick hand at her lower back. Her face was inches from suit guy’s as if he’d just whispered a joke into her ear and was now pulling away. He raised a yellow drink to his lips.
How could she be out with someone so soon? Letting him get close to her like that and knowing that I’d be here to witness it? It was wrong, but what was worse was that she was fine with him drinking. Even though I was a bartender, I rarely drank. How was I any less than a business guy? And why did it have to be the same one who was trying to buy Teddy’s out from under me?
“This is the creator,” Joey said, arm around the shoulders of a Black woman with crisscross goddess braids and a frozen purple drink in her hand.
“Can I have the recipe?”
“Then you wouldn’t have to come back.”
She smiles then gives a dramatic sigh. “There goes my wallet.”