The Value of Concision (1 of 8)
My IELTS Writing Task One book has Tip 6. My IELTS Writing Task Two book has Tip 10. They both have the same name: CUT THE FLUFF! This has helped the average IELTS Writing Score in Taiwan to rise. After my books were published, and with all my teaching, the message finally got out – but there are still many bad books out there, with many bad teachers playing the ‘memorisation game’, and there are large numbers of students who fall for this. Hence, the average writing score is only 5.5. It isn’t even 6, or higher. Not yet.
But let’s not think about IELTS. Let’s just think about good writing generally. What’s wrong with fluff? Well, here’s a nice quote from a famous book called ‘The Elements of Style’, by Professor Strunk, an English professor at Cornell University. The book was first published in the 1930s. Here is his Rule 17, and his comment about it.
Rule 17: Omit Needless Words
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
Well, my rule is exactly the same: Cut the fluff!
An important word is ‘concise’ and ‘concision’. On Page 17, ‘concise’ is defined as …
Concise = the words are not repetitive; every word is meaningful and counts.
Page 33, at the bottom, states …
This new sentence is much shorter, and makes the same point. That is, the sentence is concise, and concision is a sign of a good writer.
And, I’ll quote Professor Strunk one more time.
When a sentence is made shorter, it is usually made stronger.
This should be your rule in IELTS Writing. If a sentence can make the same point in fewer words, WRITE THAT SENTENCES! You then have time to …
- write more,
- say more,
- and achieve more of the task.
The following series of posts will look at this issue.