Concision; okay, Conciseness

rogersgeorge on October 1st, 2016

This is rule three of my five gold rules of expository writing, after clear and correct (two  kinds). I held off a bit waiting for some good examples of not being concise, so I could be a curmudgeon bwhahaha.

Okay, let’s get serious. When you’re concise, you use all the words that are necessary, but no more. “On a daily basis” is not concise, because “daily” means the same thing. The rule is if you can say something with fewer words, do so. A synonym, terse, means “being a little too concise, so you sound unfriendly.” We won’t get into that. Being concise means you don’t waste your reader’s time or distract your reader from your content. Here are a few bad examples, anonomized to prevent embarrassment:

The first screen you will view is the ‘My Profile’ screen which is your profile.  This screen is broken down into 3 sections

Here’s concise:

The first screen is the ‘My Profile’ screen, which has 3 sections

Better, right? Here’s another:

Next, click on the ‘My Plan’ tab to view the details and/or to update your Performance Plan

The “next” isn’t necessary from the context, which I’m not showing.

Click  ‘My Plan’ to view or update your Plan

Microsoft (and Apple) specify a certain amount of conciseness in their style guides. For example you should “click OK,” not “click on the OK button.” I’m writing this a couple weeks ahead of when this’ll be posted, so I’ll keep my eyes open for some more examples:

Do you live in a remote area, or otherwise have difficulty bringing your computer in for repair?

Not as colorful, but definitely more to the point:

Do you have difficulty bringing your computer in for repair?

Here’s one I ran into today. I’ll just mark out the redundancy.

Hoffman-Richter Warranty Registration is currently not available as of this time.


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