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Economic Use of Language means finding the least number of words necessary to get your point across.

Like strong whisky, a good sentence packs a punch. You know exactly what it is. Each extra word you add is like adding water to the whisky. It gets diluted, the flavour gets lost, and eventually you're not sure what you're drinking.

Economic Language is all about clear communication.

Most of the time, the fewer words, the greater the clarity.

 

For example:

This module aims to teach you to write clear English sentences.

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This module that we're studying in the course about Writing & Communication skills is going to look at how we write using fewer words to make a sentence clearer to follow and understand, so that the meaning isn't lost and everyone can understand it easily.

 

Both of those are sentences, but one is technically better than the other because it's short, sharp and clear. The reader doesn't fall asleep halfway through and it isn't confusing.

The thing is, when we see a blank piece of paper, we tend to panic. Especially in a formal, academic setting where we're expected to know a lot of words. We feel as though we need to fill up that blank sheet of A4 with as many words as we can remember - exactly like the cartoon above. We start off knowing what we want to say, but instead of explaining it like we would to a friend, we start filling the space with 'thus,' 'therefore,' and 'however,'s. Before long, there's so many words in the way that we can hardly find the point we were trying to make.

 

Economic Language is an art. It's all about learning the balance between just enough words to make sense, but not so many words that we lose the thread.

 

It takes a lot of practice.

 

EXERCISE

  1. Download this file: Parthenogenesis Exercise

  2. In it, you will find a paragraph explaining parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction. It's deliberately quite a technical piece of writing. Go through it and see if there are any words or phrases you can remove to make the piece easier to read. Look for:

- Repetition of information.
- Long or confusing sentences.

See how many words you can remove and still have it make sense.

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Once you have completed the above task, watch this video in which Marion walks you through how she approaches this piece as a professional editor. You can also download this handout as a quick-reference guide for future writing: Economic Language Handout.

 

 

One last thing to think about is when to start a new paragraph. Paragraphs help to break the text up so that it's easier to read. A wall of text is very difficult for the brain to process, so we use paragraphs to show:

  •     A change in time (yesterday/today)

  •     A change in location (at school/at home)

  •     A change in topic (my opinion on philosophy/my opinion on religion)

If you are changing the direction of your discussion, then you usually want a new paragraph.

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