Module Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module students will be able to:
  1. Avoid unnecessary repetition. [CLO 4, 5]
  2. Use revision to refine meaning, clarity, and purpose. [CLO 3, 4, 5]
  3. Recognize the difference between revision and proofreading. [CLO 4, 5]
  4. Reconstruct sentences accurately using varied syntax. [CLO 1, 4, 5]
  5. Write with directness in an engineering context. [CLO 1, 5]

Resources (Bank)

Description of how to be used: Used for analysis and practice during session

Download: Sample Paragraph – Wordy (PDF, 131 KB)

Description of how to be used: Used for analysis and practice during session

Download: Sample Paragraph – Concise (PDF, 133 KB)

Description of how to be used: See instructions


Description of how to be used: To be used to assist students with concision

Download: Concision Resource (PDF, 156 KB)

Face to Face Workshop Plan

Description of Workshop

Students will analyze a paragraph to identify genre, lexicogrammatical choices, and the impact on clarity and directness before practicing revision for concision. Ideally, students will bring one of their own assignments to use for further practice.

Time for Completion

60 – 90 minutes


Separate copies of sample wordy paragraph and concise paragraph – one for each student
Multi-coloured highlighters or pens

Workshop Preparation Instructions

Students should be instructed to bring an introduction, executive summary or abstract from one of their own assignments to the workshop as a practice sample.

Instructors may also wish to prepare a list of resources for further practice including the Purdue Owl Concision Information.


Step 1: Instructors distribute the first sample paragraph (~10 minutes)

Ask students to read the paragraph. Ask students to identify the main purpose of the two paragraphs, what kind of document would they expect to contain paragraphs such as these? Why? What word choices and sentence structure choices might indicate the purpose and intended readers of these paragraphs?

Facilitator Notes:

It is important that the students identify the exaggerations, repetitions and overly complex sentences in the sample rather than the instructor pointing them out.

Step 2: Revising for concision and clarity (~10 minutes)

Ask students to revise the paragraph for clarity and concision. Challenge the students to cut 100 words without losing meaning.

Step 3: In pairs ask students to compare the changes they made (~10 minutes)

Take up one or two examples from the students to explain why they made the change and ensure students have not lost the meaning.

Facilitator Notes:

Getting students to explain why they made their edits provides the opportunity to bring to conscious awareness the differences between lexical choices, simple versus complex sentences, active versus passive voice constructions, and the impact those choices can have on clarity and concision.

Step 4: Introduce students to a step-by-step process for achieving more concision in their writing (~15 minutes)


If using the sample paragraph:

  • Identify main point(s) and their relationships
    • Underline or highlight the main idea(s) in each sentence (the subject and verb)
  • Identify information essential to understanding the main point(s) and their relationships
    • Underline or highlight in a different colour the most important information a reader needs to know in order to understand the point
  • Underline or highlight in a different colour essential specific details that are more pertinent or relevant

If using students’ writing:

  • Ask students to identify what they believe to be the main ideas, relevant information and specific details and then locate them in their draft


  • What isn’t underlined or highlighted?
  • Does it contribute to the purpose or meaning in any way?
  • Can you make an argument for what it contributes? If not—cut it! When in doubt, cut it out.


  • Making the sentences/paragraph readable or “Wordsmithing”
  • Making decisions about word choice and sentence structures
  • Getting the right verb – lets you cut adjectives in many cases

Facilitators Notes:

It may be useful to introduce students to Princeton’s WordNet search at this point. Based on a corpus of current usage, the dictionary provides examples of the many meaning’s words may have and can help students develop more nuanced definitions of the words they are using.

Facilitator Notes:

Students are often dependent on bilingual dictionaries. These are not bad, but rather, they are incomplete. It is important to let students know that they are often getting incomplete information including outdated or only the most common meanings of words. They need to take the word their bilingual dictionary gives them and look that word up on a site like the Princeton’s WordNet search to see the various meanings the word can have along with sample sentences. They need to do this before making a final choice. If they want to be very complete and check their knowledge in their first language, they can take the word they found and put that in their bilingual dictionary and see what they find. It may or may not be the word they started with. If it isn’t, it may be interesting to find out why.

Step 5: Using all this information (~10 minutes)

Students now take their sample and see which pair can get it to 90 words without losing essential meaning.

Facilitators Notes:

Students have been revising until this point. It is important to point this out to students. Proofreading, a very important step, is done last. It is done after a writer is satisfied that the meaning is clear, all essential information is included, and all irrelevant information has been cut.

Step 6: Proofreading (~5 minutes)

Now, students can do the easy part—proofreading. It is easier to proofread something you haven’t written, so, have pairs exchange their final paragraphs for proofreading (spelling, capitalization, punctuation, subject-verb agreement, singular-plural forms, etc.)

Step 7: Comparing the Sample (~5 minutes)

Give students the sample concise paragraph (89 words) and have them compare their attempts. Did anyone edit down lower than 89 words? Were they able to maintain the meaning?

Supplemental Materials

Purdue Owl Concision Exercises: Used as reference for concision strategies/techniques

Avoiding Wordiness Exercise (PDF, 148 KB): Used to provide additional practice


Self-assessment: How close do students get to the goal of 89 words in the practice sample?