Writers' Treasure Magnetic Writing How to write tight sentences

How to write tight sentences

This is a guest article by Drusilla Richards. If you want to submit a guest article of your own be sure to read the guest article guidelines.

Many bloggers and writers today have trouble writing tight sentences. So, what really is a tight sentence? It’s a sentence(s) that is clear, concise, and written in a manner that makes every word count.

So, if I’m going on and on giving “background information” such as where, what, why, who, and you know all that stuff, before I get to the point, then clearly — my sentences are not “tight”… similar to this sentence. Yikes!

Loose sentences cause a number of problems for the readers.

First of all, readers fail to understand the real topic of discussion for a long period of time. The author takes so long to get to the point, that meaning is lost within the details. A reader might have to re-read the piece just to look for the main point.

Secondly, loose sentences make a writing piece boring. Readers are yawning, stretching, and daydreaming before they get to the main idea.

Here are a few tips on what you should be doing to avoid “loose sentences” and make your sentences look as fit and “tight” as they can be.

1) Eliminate unnecessary articles

Articles such as “an” “a” or “the” are excessively used in loose sentences. Here is an example:

  • Loose: The best part about the party was that the home-owners, who were a wealthy lot, invited the guests to their swimming pool where the water was intentionally kept warm.
  • Tight: Everyone enjoyed the swimming pool the most, which had warm water.

2) Eliminate unnecessary words

Stacking your sentences with unnecessary words, repetitions, and useless details contribute to sentence verbosity. Try to cut down as many “obvious” words as possible.

Most of the time, a loose sentence can be cut down at least 50%. The writer may believe that each of the details included are necessary when actually they aren’t. Here is an example:

  • Loose: Nikola Tesla shocked an assembled audience, who were all really impressed, at the conference held at DoomsGate by operating a six-foot radio-controlled electric boat at the conference.
  • Tight: Nikola Tesla surprised the audience at the DoomsGate Conference by operating a radio-controlled electric boat.

Notice the amount of unnecessary details and repetitions in the loose sentence. It all had to be hacked down to make concise, yet complete, tight sentence.

3) Get rid of the passives

To add a little verbosity or complexity to a sentence, writers often choose to make passive constructions. Passive constructions are effective when you are trying to sound formal and “verbosity” isn’t a concern.

For example academic prose, political speeches, and poetry commonly have loose sentences and rhetorical constructions for effect. News, magazine, or web articles and books, however, require clarity to keep the average reader hooked. For this reason, editors reject verbosity and terribly loose sentences in contemporary writing.

To eliminate your passive voice and convert it to active, you need to make sure that the subject does the action. Not the other way around (the subjected is acted upon by the verb).

The following are examples of passive and active voice constructions from yourdictionary. Note how passive voice always adds two or more extra words. Passive voice can also be a little confusing because the subject isn’t fully understood until the end of the sentence.

  • We are going to watch a movie tonight. (active)
    A movie is going to be watched by us tonight. (passive)
  • Mom read the novel in one day. (active)
    The novel was read by Mom in one day. (passive)
  • She faxed her application for a new job. (active)
    The application for a new job was faxed by her. (passive)
  • No one responded to my sales ad. (active)
    My sales ad was not responded to by anyone. (passive)
  • I’d need dissertation assistance (active)
    Dissertation assistance would be needed by me (passive)

4) Avoid imprecise words

Writing tight sentences also means that you are being specific. In doing so, you need to avoid vague words such as “things”, “stuff”, and “whatever”.

Example:

  • Loose: I have a feeling Mom went through my things just to find whatever stuff she had been looking for. (unclear, confusing, and loose)
  • Tight: I get the feeling Mom went through my drawers and closet to look for her missing earrings. (clear, concise, and tight)

5) Some more tips on tight sentences:

  • Remove sentences that don’t add meaning to the main idea. Some sentences are far off the topic. This is just “clutter”.
  • Try out various ways you can write your sentences eliminating unnecessary words without obscuring the meaning or missing out important details. Do this exercise until you are satisfied that the sentences is as short as possible.
  • Avoid using unnecessary adverbs. For example, “Jane shouted out loudly” can be written as, “Jane shouted out”. Loudly was an unnecessary adverb (obviously, a shout has to be loud!)
  • Avoid using too many “weak verbs”: is, are, were. Use more definitive verbs that specify the action.
  • Keep practicing. Writing tight takes practice!

Drusilla Richards works at Dissertation Arena as a media manager. She’s also a blog enthusiasts with a core specialty in topics like design, monetization, etc. Join her on Google+.

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11 thoughts on “How to write tight sentences”

  1. Good insight about writing tight sentences. However, I would also like to observe that short sentences are not tight sentences by default. While short sentences work very well in tightening pace and tension for the reader, there’s a beauty and charm in languid and long sentences too if they are well crafted.

    1. Chaitali…I agree with you about the beauty and charm in well crafted longer sentences. It’s difficult though to determine which images to keep or cut, particularly in those that have extended metaphors. Any suggestions?

  2. Great article. I feel my writing is quite academic, I would like to add creativity and humor in it. How can I do that?

    1. I don’t know how to write the tight sentence but, now I have some idea to make simple sentence. I really want to create writing someone help me, please. Thank you.

  3. However, if you tell stories in person that people like, and you know they do, isn’t it good to have your own personality involved in the sentences…in your own way, whether concise, or Texan, or country or happy and full of humor?

    I’ve found that sudden mistakes or wrong words, laughingly, kinda add color to the story telling…does anybody listening do that?
    any care to comment? I could be all wrong! I write CDS and books about my 50 years in country music….

  4. Don’t worry about writing tight during the first draft.  Writing tight takes practice and should be done in the revision process.  Writing tight doesn’t mean always writing shorter sentences.  Clarity always comes first. 

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