Medical Writing Writing better How to shorten a text by up to 30% and improve clarity without losing information
emwa-2017-spring-coverjpg

Volume 26, Issue 1 - Writing better

How to shorten a text by up to 30% and improve clarity without losing information

Abstract

What if everything you read was up to 30% shorter and more easily understood? What if everything you wrote was up to 30% shorter and more easily understood? Would that be a skill worth developing? Would  your employer or clients notice if your work improved this much? Would their opinion of your skills change if they did? Reducing the number of words in a text without losing information is easier than you might think. Reducing or eliminating nominalisations (verbs turned into nouns or adjectives) and the passive voice can substantially improve the clarity of the text as well as shortening it. In this article, I review these two grammatical constructions, describe their strengths and weaknesses, tell how to recognise them, and explain when you can change them to improve your writing.

Download the full article

References

  1. Sword H. Zombie nouns. From http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/201 2/07/23/zombie-nouns/?_r=0. Accessed October 15, 2016.
  2. Felsenfeld C. Plain English Movement: Panel Discussion. http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/view content.cgi?article=1475&context= faculty_ scholarship. Accessed October 15, 2016.
  3. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (Pub. L. No. 96-511, 94 Stat. 2812, codified at 44 U.S.C. §§ 3501–3521).
  4. Felker D, editor. Document design: a review of the relevant research. Washington, D.C.: American Institutes for Research, Document Design Center; 1980.
  5. Felker D, and Others. Guidelines for document designers. Washington, D.C.: American Institutes for Research, Document Design Center, 1981, 117 pages.
  6. Jonassen DH, editor. The technology of text: principles for structuring, designing, and displaying text: vol 1 and 2. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications, 1982:317-40.
  7. Anderson P, Brockmann R, Miller C, editors. New essays in scientific communication: research, theory, and practice. New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.; 1983.
  8. Charrow PR, Charrow VR. Making legal language understandable: a psycholinguistic study of jury instructions. Columbia Law Rev. 1979;79:1306-733.
  9. Lang TA. Letter to the editor. Response to the article titled “Use of the passive voice in medical journal articles.” AMWA J. 2011;26(1):46.
  10. Duffy TM, Kabance P. Testing a readable writing approach to text revision. J Ed Psychol. 1982;74 :733-48.
  11. Schlesinger IM. Sentence Structure and the Reading Process. The Hague: Mouton, 1968.
  12. Rohrman N. The role of syntactic structure in the recall of English nominalizations. J Verbal Learning Verbal Behav. 1968; 7:904-12.
  13. Lang TA. Striking out with readability formulas. AMWA J. 2004;19:95-6.

Search

Articles

Writing Better
President’s Message
EMWA News
Advancing the Medical Writing profession: The Joint Position Statement on the Role of Professional Medical Writers
AMWA-EMWA-ISMPP Joint Position Statement on the Role of Professional Medical Writers
EMWA’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs)
Finding the action in your writing: Avoiding nominalisation
Removing the dead wood
Writing economically in medicine and science: Tips for tackling wordiness
How to shorten a text by up to 30% and improve clarity without losing information
Troublesome words
Can you recognise the four main ways that English sentences can be structured?
Three strategies to help you write clearly for a lay audience
Structuring paragraphs
A checklist to improve your writing
Results of the 2016 EMWA member survey
News from the EMA
Getting Your Foot in the Door
Teaching Medical Writing
In the Bookstores
Lingua Franca and Beyond
The Webscout
Good Writing Practice
Medical Communications
Profile: An Interview with Michael Markie - an open science and open data advocate
Out on Our Own

Member Login

Links

The Write Stuff Archive Contact Instructions for Authors Feature Article Template (Word) Journal Policies

Editoral Board

Editor-in-Chief:

Co-Editor:

Managing Editor

  • Victoria White (Tampa, Florida, USA)
show all +

Associate Editors:

Section Editors:

Ad-hoc Editors:

  • Amy Whereat (SpeaktheSpeech Consulting, Asnieres sur Seine, France)

Editor Emeritus: