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I always face the problem of word limit. How can I shorten a piece of writing without causing its original essence to mar? How can I be effective in doing that? Are there any general rules?

For example, I need to write 50 words. NOT MORE. Now, that I've written 57, it seems impossible to me to cut the words to reduce their amount.

Panda's peaceful appearance's just a disguise to conceal its disturbing inner world. Inside, it's a determined fighter against anxiety. To overcome it, panda spends hours devouring bamboo plants - a sort of stress-eating. So, here's the panda's advice: 'When vexed, when disturbed, when upset - try embracing a bamboo-based diet. No time for worries - make sure you chew properly'.

(The question is What does the panda say?)

Any help would be appreciated. Huge thanks in advance.

  • What if you are under 50 words? – hszmv Nov 25 '19 at 20:19
  • Nothing, just not more. – Stacy Nov 25 '19 at 20:20
  • Voting to close, this question seems to be asking what to write, or help with a school assignment. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Nov 29 '19 at 12:09
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Try looking for places where you're overly wordy. Your third sentence for example is clunky and seems to be trying to fit in words for the sake of getting close to the maximum. I'd re-arrange it and cut some of the excess. You shouldn't be using infinitive verbs (verbs that are written "to [verb]" when they can be placed as the main action of the sentence (you're doing this in sentence 3.). You should also look to keep bamboo as a noun, and not an adjective describing a plant.

I can rearrange Sentence three to eliminate 4-5 words. I'm not showing you a better way because this sounds like an assignment and I'm not going to do your homework for you, though I point you in general directions. Colon marks (:) denote a list of things, and shouldn't be used unless you have two or more things that fall under your list's category (here it's Panda advice). Since this is a quote attributed to the Panda, write it like you would with dialog. Single quote marks (') denote a quote within a quote ( i.e. Tony said, "Melinda said, 'Ted is a doofus.'"). Note that if the quote-in-quote ends the sentence, then close the quote-in-quote before closing the quote (").

If you understand how to diagram sentences, this will show you which words are important. A sentence needs a subject (the person who does a thing), a verb (the action that was done), and a predicate (the recipient of the actions of the subject). Free hint: If you have a subject that says something, the entirety of of what is written in "quotes" is the predicate (it's a little tricky if you don't know this). Anything that is not the subject-verb-predicate are extra and may be trimmed back. Predicates are always nouns, unless they are quotes that the subject spoke, then they are entirely that quote."

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  • Thank you a lot. That's really helpful. Would it be fine to edit the third sentence like this: Overcoming it implies continuous bamboo consumption/devouring - a stress-eating manner/prototype. – Stacy Nov 25 '19 at 21:02
  • Or a stress-eating mechanism...? – Stacy Nov 25 '19 at 21:25
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One way to shorten a piece of writing effectively is to remove any duplication. Sometimes, we repeat something for effect, to highlight how important it is, but it can be effective to remove duplication to make writing 'punchier'.

To find duplication, you can look for places where very similar expressions occur next to each other in the same sentence, or follow each other very closely.

For instance, the words disguise and conceal in the first sentence are slightly redundant - both expressions express a very similar concept. If you need to shorten the piece you could try removing one of these expressions.

If you leave out 's just a disguise to, and change conceal to conceals, the sentence is stronger for being punchier, without losing meaning: Panda's peaceful appearance conceals its disturbing inner world.

This sentence allows the reader's mind to complete the picture - it is clear that the peaceful appearence is a disguise, without needing to say it.

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  • Welcome to writing.se! It's nice to have users from the network join our site. Remember to take the tour for the usual badge, and visit the help center to learn what is on-topic here. I feel your answer might be stronger if you generalised the advice to "Avoid redundant statements" and then used the sentence as an example. Rewording of specific phrases is off-topic here but this question is generalised enough to remain open. Therefore your answer should try to be generally applicable too. Good luck and happy writing! – linksassin Nov 26 '19 at 22:27
  • Thank you @linksassin I've tried to make my comments more general. – Jonathan Moore Nov 29 '19 at 11:44

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