Lesson Three

Trimming Fat

By “fat” I mean all those inflated phrases and unnecessary words that clog professional writing. I’m not talking about jargon, precisely, because jargon is sometimes good, as we’ll discuss in the next lesson. But what I’m calling “fat” is always bad.

Fatty phrases and words fall into three primary categories:

  • Unnecessarily long or fancy words (Fatty Words)
  • Unnecessary prepositional phrases (Fatty Phrases)
  • Unnecessary repetitions (Pure Fat)

Here’s a sentence suffering from all three kinds of fat:

Due to the fact that the compressor ceased functioning prior to our completion of the work project, we informed the contracting party at that point in time that unless he agreed to convey a functioning compressor to our job site free of additional charge or cost to us, our contract with him would be rendered null and void.

Trim the fat, and you get a much shorter, clearer sentence:

Since the compressor broke down before we finished the job, we told the contractor to bring us another one, at no extra cost, or we’d cancel our contract with him.

Your own prose is probably not bloated with this much fat-but if you look for it, you’ll find some. You’ve probably seen a lot of fat in professional writing and may have gotten the impression that it sounds sophisticated. Don’t believe it. Trim it.

View Worksheet.