Wilbers: Until such time as you eliminate wordiness, you'll lose your reader

  • Article by: STEPHEN WILBERS , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 23, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Why do some writers become wordy when they refer to time? Are they trying to make themselves sound more important? Is their wordiness simply a bad habit?

Here’s an example: “Until such time as we recognize our habits, we have no hope of changing them.”

Did you see it? Why write until such time when until will suffice?

During the time it takes readers to read a wordy phrase, they might begin to think of all the other things they could be doing with their time.

Did you catch it? Compare “During the time it takes readers to read a wordy phrase …” with “When readers read a wordy phrase …”

So during the course of your revising (or while revising), change “In this day and age, don’t waste your reader’s time” to “These days, don’t waste your reader’s time” or to “Don’t waste your reader’s time.” Likewise, change “At this point in time, I think we should hold off” to “For now, I think we should hold off.”

With these patterns in mind, find five wordy references to time in the following paragraph:

“Prior to my becoming a columnist, I knew wordiness was an issue in writing, but it was only during the course of writing my columns that I realized the extent of the problem. At that point in time I began to see examples everywhere. In due course I noticed certain patterns, and subsequent to my realizing this I compiled a list.”

Here’s the paragraph minus the wordy expressions:

“Before I became a columnist, I knew wordiness was an issue in writing, but it was only while writing my columns that I realized the extent of the problem. I then began to see examples everywhere. Finally I noticed certain patterns, and after I realized this, I compiled a list.”

Now look again at the last sentence. It could be condensed to “After noticing certain patterns, I compiled a list.”

Are you getting the idea?

Eliminate the wordy references to time in these sentences:

1. I plan to complete my draft in two weeks from now.

2. During a six-month period of time I did nothing but eat, sleep, exercise and write.

3. She finished researching and writing her dissertation in three years’ time.

Did you change in two weeks from now to in two weeks, a six-month period of time to a six-month period and in three years’ time to in three years?

Now for your final exam. Identify five instances of wordiness in this paragraph:

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