Business Writing

Too many words?

Continuing on our theme of wordiness, it seems to be a problem that many of my blog readers recognise.

One major cause of wordiness is overuse of prepositional phrases.

Prepositional phrases (phrases that begin with words like for, at, in, over and through) often add unnecessary words to sentences and make them unclear.

The easiest way to demonstrate this is to show you some prepositional phrases and some sentences which include prepositional phrases, and the revised versions.

[col 10 first] [table format=“1″]
Before After
Developments in technology Technological developments
Increase in the level of funding Funding increase
Processes for the management of the budget Budget management processes.
Organisation of the meeting Meeting organization
The reason for the failure of the project for the HR department was the inability of the team in finding suitable resources without incurring additional expenses. The HR department’s project failed because the team couldn’t access the resources without spending more money.
The most recent developments in the finance sector will be included in the results of the report of the state of play in the country at this time. The report of the current situation in Australia will include information about recent finance sector developments.
[/table][/col] [col 2 last][/col]

Now sometimes the revised version is only a couple of words shorter, but when you read the revised sentences you will see that they are easier to understand.

It is okay to use a couple of prepositional phrases, but when a writer uses too many they can become a problem. If you find yourself using a number of them in a sentence, think hard about what the message is that you want to communicate. What did you really mean when you wrote the sentence?



To illustrate the problem further, here’s another example from The Writing Centre at the UNC College of Arts and Sciences.

The reason for the failure of the economic system of the island was the inability of Gilligan in finding adequate resources without incurring expenses at the hands of the headhunters on the other side of the island.


Gilligan hurt the economic system of the island because he couldn’t find adequate resources without angering the headhunters.