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Q&A

How can I shorten a piece of writing without losing its original essence?

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I need to know how to make my writing more brief without maring its original meaning and message. I have been struggling with that for a while, and still cannot do that. It simply seems to me that you cannot cast out any of the words without changing the meaning.

What can be the techniques of reducing the number of words in a text to make it more concise but keep the essence?

Thank you in advance.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/q/48618. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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3 answers

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Text Compression

Compression of text is a lot like refactoring code. A lot of people here code, so maybe they'll appreciate this concept

Abstraction

A complex idea can often be represented by a single word. When you have a lot of words, see if there's a more concise, well-understood, word or phrase that could replace everything else.

Fuzzy Compression/Language

You may not need to actually express an idea. So if you are vague or point in a direction with your language the reader may assume the missing context. Like with JPEGs painting a rough picture may be better than spelling it out in detail.

Assert By Reference

If the point doesn't need to be made in text, refer to something else instead of restating something else you've said elsewhere. Saying one thing and only one thing in a location gives you the power to write a thing once and be done.

Remove Duplicates

Track each idea that a sentence conveys and determine which sentences achieve the same things and pick one to achieve that point/idea instead of doing it multiple times.

Elimination

If you know what you want to say. (Potentially you have a list of points you want to make). You can judge whether any given sentence helps you achieve your point. You can eliminate sentences, paragraphs, chapters, or just clauses and words in this way.

Summary

These have been some high-level abstract ways of describing a lot of the rules of thumb Amadeus posted. He has largely favored Abstraction & Elimination. And in my experience those two are usually enough. Your tool will often depend on your form and audience. And just like algorithms for compressing data there are limits to what you can achieve as the space gets smaller, so you may need to adjust your goals themselves in order to apply the Elimination tool enough to meet the restrictions of your form.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/48706. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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Original text of question: I strongly believe that such type of dieting as vegetarianism should be pursued by everybody, considering ethical, health, and ecological reasons. First and foremost, it is absurd that animals have to experience so much torturing suffering in order to satisfy humans' unnecessary whims. Then, specific importance should be given to the fact that animal breeding provokes landscape degradation and other issues of high concern. Last but not least, a correctly balanced vegetarian diet has long been considered of high nutritional value for both children and adults. Yet, before ruthlessly devouring the flesh of somewhen living souls, we should ourselves imagine being farm animals treated with conceited cruelty.

Eliminate superfluous words; you are saying things with too many words. To demonstrate such a transformation, I will take your first line through stages:

I strongly believe that such type of dieting as vegetarianism should be pursued by everybody,

I strongly believe diets like vegetarianism should be pursued by everybody,

I strongly believe everybody should pursue diets like vegetarianism,

What is pursuing a diet like vegetarianism? It is just being a vegetarian!

I strongly believe everybody should be a vegetarian,

Eight words versus fifteen words, and it conveys the same sentiment. Take one more out with a minor rephrasing and a better word (embrace, or adopt).

I strongly believe everybody should embrace vegetarianism,

And there you go. less than half your original words.

Identify what is important: "I strongly believe", "everybody", "should become (or something indicating a transformation) "vegetarian(ism)".

"That" is almost always cuttable.

Simple phrases are better than verbose: "such type of dieting as vegetarianism" is just "diets like vegetarianism". The only diets like vegetarianism are more strict than vegetarianism (like Veganism), so if you are trying to make a point, just say your least restrictive diet that accomplishes your goal: Instead of "diets like vegetarianism" say "vegetarian diets" or "Vegan diets".

Later you say "Last but not least," you could say "Finally,".

You say "a correctly balanced vegetarian diet", the word "correctly" adds nothing at all, if it isn't "correctly" balanced, then it isn't balanced! If you say "a balanced diet", readers will assume there is a correct way to balance a diet, and also that not all vegetarian diets are balanced.

What does "has long been considered [to be] of high nutritional value" mean? It means "is known to be nutritious". Doesn't "for both children and adults" mean "for children and adults"?

You have a lot of words that are adding no meaning. Presumably you are doing this for emphasis, but it does the opposite of what you want it to do; it draws out the sentence so it reduces the impact. Get rid of them, rephrase if necessary, and you can probably cut this down to 50 or 60 words, leaving you more room to make another point in your argument. Or to then add adjectives or emphasis where you most want it.

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Start by actually reading over the text. Do it with the mindset of a third person that is impatient to get what you are saying, constantly muttering to himself "What's the point? Get on with it already! Stop wasting my time!".

I need to know how to [do I] make my writing more brief without maring its original meaning and message.[?] I have been struggling with that for a while, and still cannot do that. It simply seems to me that you cannot cast out any of the words without changing the meaning.

Note that the above still says the same thing.

This can leave the wording harsh sometimes, so go back and polish it. For example, change "maring" to "changing", "you" to "I", "cast out" to "remove", "changing" to "altering". Maybe rearrange thoughts and sentences altogether, just like normal proofreading.

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