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Concision 9/21/00

In his book, Style: Ten lessons in clarity and grace, Williams gives five principles of concision (I added the examples).

1. Delete meaningless words.

The fact of the matter is that our experimental progress actually depends more on certain kinds of innovative technology than on scientific originality.

(Our experimental progress depends more on innovative technology than on the scientific originality).

 

2. Delete double words.

The data were full and complete.

They offered various and sundry explanations for the results.

 

3. Delete what readers can infer.

redundant modifiers:

PCR has completely revolutionized biochemistry.

Each individual researcher will test one hypothesis.

The consensus of opinion was that the experiment succeeded.

redundant categories:

The blue colored buffer was contaminated.

The mice were large in size.

During the period of time of the experiment, the reagents became opaque in appearance.

words implied by the grammar:

Lynx are smaller than coyote are.

(Lynx are smaller than coyote).

When hare are attacked, they run quickly into the cover.

(When attacked, hare run quickly into the cover).

4. Replace a phrase with a word

Due to the fact that the mice were unavailable, we delayed the experiment.

(Because the mice were unavailable, we delayed the experiment)

Methyl bromide has the capacity to destroy ozone.

(Methyl bromide can destroy ozone).

It is possible that the ban on methyl bromide will be delayed.

(The ban on methyl bromide may be delayed)

There is a need for new ways to purify water.

(We need new ways to purify water).

 

5. Change negatives to affirmatives

They did not consider other interpretations. (They ignored other interpretations).

The data were not different. (The data were similar).

They did not have the equipment. (They lacked the equipment).

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