Conciseness—One of Six ‘C’ Qualities of Effective Communication

The ‘C of Conciseness’, one of six Cs which represents the six (6) qualities of effective communication, is concerned with the application of techniques that ensures conciseness in a message.

Conciseness means saying what needs to be said in as few words as possible. It is important to keep the message crisp and concise.

Conciseness lends both credence and courtesy to your messages.

Remember that courtesyOpens in new window helps you build and maintain goodwill. It adds not only to the efficacy of the message but also saves the receiver’s time in understanding it.

Lengthy messages are not only boring but are also distracting to the receiver.

As you edit and revise your writing, use the following methods to develop concise messages that are courteous and clear:

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1.   Eliminate Unnecessary Words

Write naturally! Keep that two-word command in mind as you create messages.

Use a conversational tone; write as though you were communicating face-to-face. Enhance clarityOpens in new window and conciseness by using only the necessary words.

After you compose a draft, edit your message to eliminate unnecessary words.

Note the difference in the following examples:

  • No small amount of respect for the reader is shown by the considerate utilization of positive lexical choices.
  • Concise
  • Positive words show respect for the reader.

You might notice the wordy version contains 18 words. The concise version eliminated unnecessary words and reduced the word count to seven (7) words.

2.   Select Action Verbs and Efficient Words

Some writers use wordy phrases even though action verbs make clearer, shorter, more concise statements.

Compare the wordy phrases with the action verb messages in the underneath examples.

    Wordy Phrases
  • Please make an agreement to purchase the Marco system.
  • Dr. Parker made a contribution of $500 to St. Jude’s Hospital for Children.
  • Action Verbs
  • Please agree to purchase the Marco system.
  • Dr. Parker contributed $500 to St. Jude’s Hospital for Children.

After you choose action verbs, check for efficient, concise words. In the following examples, note how concise expressions reduce the word count:

    Wordy Phrases
  • During the time that you were in Japan, which cities did you visit?
  • Please move the box off of the desk.
  • Concise Words
  • While you were in Japan, which cities did you visit?
  • Please move the box off the desk.

Also, take note of Unnecessary Repetitive Words:

    Needless Repetitions
  • Please endorse your name on the back of this cheque.
  • We must meet together at 10:30 a.m in the morning.
  • Our new model is longer in length than the old one.
  • If you are not satisfied, return it back to us.
    Repetitions Eliminated
  • Please endorse this cheque.
  • We must meet at 10:30 a.m.
  • Our new model is longer than the old one.
  • If you are not satisfied, return it.
Important Hint! 

For concise expression that you might use to replace inefficient words and phrases, you may review additional examples of concise expressions below:

Avoid Inefficient Words and PhrasesUse Efficient Words and Phrases
as a matter of factin fact (or indeed)
at an early dateGive a specific date.
at that point in timethen
at this time; at this point in timenow
because of the fact thatbecause
during the month of Mayduring May
each and everyeach
enclosed herewithenclosed
for an extended period of timeGive an exact time.
for the amount of $320for $320
I would appreciate it ifplease
in accordance with your suggestionas you suggested
in spite of the fact thatalthough
in the city of Cincinnatiin Cincinnati
in the last analysisDo not use this phrase.
off ofoff
please do not hesitate to contact usplease contact us
please find enclosedState what is enclosed.
thank you in advanceDo not use this phrase.
until such time asuntil

3.   Use Necessary Modifiers

Select a word or phrase only when the word or phrase serves a purpose.

Avoid unnecessary modifiers and doublet phrases—phrases that say the same thing twice, such as the honest truth.

Compare the following sentences:

    Unnecessary Modifiers
  • Selichi will teach an origami class in the month of May.
  • The team leader suggested a very unique solution.
  • Selichi will teach an origami class in May.
  • The team leader suggested a unique solution.

4.   Compose Messages in the Active Voice

In the active voiceOpens in new window, the subjectOpens in new window of the sentence performs some action. The passive voiceOpens in new window shows the subject receiving the action. Passive constructions add unnecessary words, usually in the form of prepositional phrases.

Changing from the passive to the active voice makes the messages more succinct. Note the examples below:

    Passive Voice
  • The meal was cooked by the head chef.
  • The overgrown trees were trimmed by the power company.
    Active Voice
  • The head chef cooked the meal.
  • The power company trimmed the overgrown trees.
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Important Hint! 

Select the passive voice when you want to avoid placing specific blame on someone. In a negative situation, the passive voiceOpens in new window sounds more diplomatic and tactful than the active voice. Note how the active voice examples have accusatory tones:

    Active Voice
  • The recording secretary distributed incomplete minutes.
  • Alex cut the pattern too small.
  • Passive Voice
  • Incomplete minutes were distributed by the recording secretary.
  • The pattern was cut too small by Alex.