What is “wordiness”?

From LitWiki

Wordiness can refer to the use of more words than necessary to convey meaning, or using words that are open to misinterpretation. [1]It can be attributed to using long phrases and words with multiple syllables when short ones will do. It is more prevalent in student papers that have length requirements, because they may pad their writing to meet word counts.

Elements of wordiness

There are several elements that can contribute to wordiness:[2]

  • Redundancy: Using two words that mean the same thing, or making the same point repeatedly with no purpose.
    • Example: Mary grabbed a handful of cold snow.
  • Unclear pronouns: It is unclear what object or person the pronoun belongs to.
    • Example: The boy hugged his dog and he bit him.
  • Jargon: Using unnecessary technical terms that confuse the reader.
    • Example: We have a Code 187 in the CJ.
  • Clichés: Overused phrases that can be replaced by single words or unique wording.
    • Example: Her skin was as soft as a baby's bottom.
  • Weak words: The written equivalent of 'um,' words that are not necessary to the sentence.
    • Example: Artists sort of rely on creative skills that they are basically born with.


Being concise helps make writing less wordy. Diana Hacker notes, “a sentence is wordy if its meaning can be conveyed in fewer words” (124). [3]She gives examples of redundant phrases such as “close proximity” and “true fact” (125). These words have similar meanings and can be reduced to one word. Diana also emphasizes the point to “look for any opportunities to reduce clauses and phrases to single words” (127). Pamela Arlov states that "wordiness sometimes happens when writers do not take the time to be concise" (428).[4]

  • Wordy: Mark's small car, a Honda Fit, was good for road trips.
  • Concise: Mark's Honda Fit was good for road trips.

External Links

Word Choice : Tips for choosing the right words.

Wordiness : Examples of commonly used phrases and words that can be shortened.

Work Cited

  1. Kilborn, Judith. "LEO Strategies for Reducing Wordiness." LEO Strategies for Reducing Wordiness. The Write Place, 2000. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.
  2. Powers, Shelly. "Wordiness." Undergraduate Writing Center. The University of Texas at Austin, Mar. 2009. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.
  3. Hacker, Diana. A Writer's Reference. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin's, 2003
  4. Arlov, Pamela. Wordsmith: A Guide to College Writing. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2004.