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APA Guide: 7th Edition

Qualities of Effective Scholarly Writing



Continuity and Flow

  • Continuity- logical consistency of expression throughout a written work
  • Flow- a smooth cadence of words and sentences  
  • Transitions
    • Use punctuation to signal transitions.
    • Use a pronoun that refers to a noun in the previous sentence.
    • Transitional phrases:
      • Time
        • Then, next, after, while, or since
      • Cause/Effect
        • Therefore, consequently, and as a result
      • Addition
        • In addition, moreover, furthermore, and similarly
      • Contrast
        • but, conversely, nevertheless, however, and although
  • Noun Strings- several nouns placed one after another to modify a final noun
    • Avoid noun strings as they can confuse the reader.


Conciseness and Clarity

  • Tips:
    • Say only what you need to say.
    • Avoid using fluff to make your paper longer.  
    • Use precise language.
    • Avoid jargon.
    • Use biased-free language.
    • Be direct.


You can eliminate wordiness in your writing if . . .

  • you mark sections of your writing that you struggled to produce.
    You likely included "false starts" or filler phrases in your writing when trying to put some ideas or arguments into words; this is natural. Don't worry about it as you write, but, after you're done with your draft, pass through your paper at least once, focusing only on eliminating unnecessary language. Pay particular attention to sections you struggled to get out.

  • you give yourself a breather before editing.
    Getting away from your paper will help give you the distance you'll need to see with "fresh eyes" what language is needed and what's not.

  • you learn what wordiness patterns are typical of your writing.
    Most people tend to fall into two or three patterns of wordiness when they write. Learn what your patterns are, and edit with those patterns in mind.

Replacement Phrases

Peruse the following list and identify changes you can make to reduce wordiness in your writing. While it can be helpful to make these changes, be sure that the message is still clear in your writing before doing so.

  • Omit the filler phrases "it is," "there is," and "there are" at the beginning of sentences; these often delay the sentence's true subject and verb.

    • Wordy

      It is expensive to upgrade computer systems.

    • Concise

      Upgrading computer systems is expensive.

  • Combine two closely related short sentences by omitting part of one.

    • Wordy

      The director is concerned about problems. Typical problems may occur with lighting, sound, and props.

    • Concise

      The director is concerned about typical problems with lighting, sound, and props.

  • Omit "this" from the beginning of a sentence by joining it to the preceding sentence with a comma.

    • Wordy

      Chlorofluorocarbons have been banned from aerosols. This has lessened the ozone layer's depletion.

    • Concise

      Chlorofluorocarbons have been banned from aerosols, lessening the ozone layer's depletion.

  • Change "which" or "that" constructions to an "-ing" word.

    • Wordy

      The committee, which meets monthly, oversees accounting procedures and audits.

    • Concise

      The committee, meeting monthly, oversees accounting procedures and audits.

  • Omit "which" or "that" altogether when possible.

    • Wordy

      Because the fluid, which was brown and poisonous, was dumped into the river, the company that was negligent had to shut down.

    • Concise

      Because the brown, poisonous fluid was dumped into the river, the negligent company had to shut down.

  • Replace passive verbs with active verbs. In passive constructions, the subject of the sentence is being acted upon; in active constructions, the subject is the actor.

    • Wordy

      Rain forests are being destroyed by uncontrolled logging.

    • Concise

      Uncontrolled logging is destroying rain forests.

  • Change "is" or "was" when they occur alone to a strong verb.

    • Wordy

      A new fire curtain is necessary for the stage.

    • Concise

      The stage needs a new fire curtain.

  • Replace "is," "are," "was," "were," or "have + an -ing word" to a simple present or past tense verb.

    • Wordy

      The South African government was undergoing significant changes.

    • Concise

      The South African government underwent significant changes.

  • Replace "should," "would," or "could" with strong verbs.

    • Wordy

      The environmental council could see several solutions.

    • Concise

      The environmental council saw several solutions.

  • Substitute strong verbs for "-tion" and "-sion" words whenever possible.

    • Wordy

      I submitted an application for the job.

    • Concise

      I applied for the job.

  • Replace prepositional phrases with one-word modifiers when possible. Prepositional phrases, those little relationship words like "of," "from," "after," etc., tend to bring in a lot of "-tion" and "-sion" words too.

    • Wordy

      The President of the Student Senate was in charge of the lobbying against the merger at the Minnesota Congress.

    • Concise

      The Student Senate President oversaw lobbying the Minnesota Congress against the merger.

  • Use a colon after a statement preceding a sentence of explanation, and leave out the beginning of the next sentence

    • Wordy

      The theater has three main technical areas. These areas are costumes, scenery, and lighting.

    • Concise

      The theater has three main technical areas: costumes, scenery, and lighting.


Content copied and adapted by Peace Ossom Williamson for educational purposes from Strategies for Reducing Wordiness ( by Judith Kilborn and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

Numbers, Mathematics, and Statistics

  • Numbers: Use numerals
    • for numbers 10 and higher 
    • for numbers before a unit of measurement (Example: 9 kilometers)
    • for numbers representing statistical or mathematical functions, fractions, decimals, percentages, etc.
    • for times, dates, ages, scores, points, sums of money, etc.
  • Numbers: Spell out the word
    • for numbers that begin a sentence, title, or text heading (Writers can start a sentence with a year expressed in numerals.)
    • for common fractions (e.g., two-thirds cup)
    • for universally accepted phrases (e.g. "Twelve Apostles")
  • Use spaces between numbers and mathematical operators. (Example: a + b = c)
  • Remember to name the statistical procedure you're using before reporting its results.
  • Percent(age) versus %:
    • Use the symbol when preceded by a numeral (e.g., "50% of people")
    • Spell out the word when a number isn't given (e.g., "a sizable percent" or "a significant percentage")
  • Formal abbreviations and symbols: These include p (lowercase italic) for probability and t (lowercase italic) for t-test and the sample value of the t-test statistic.
  • Anchors of a scale (example, 1 = low and 4 = high) are italicized.


See pages 178-181 of the manual for more information.

Three or fewer? If you have list of three or fewer items, you must keep them within the paragraph. Ex: "The participant’s three choices were (a) working with another participant, (b) working  with a team, and (c) working alone..” Set the elements with a series of lowercase letters in parentheses.

Three or more? In this case, you can keep these items within a sentence or paragraph, or you can separate them out into a list and capitalize and punctuate each item as if it were a complete sentence. Separate each item in the list with a lower-case letter and a period, for example:

   a. Example 1

   b. Example 2

   c. Example 3

Bullets or numbers?

Use numbers for an ordered list.

Use bullets for a list where the items do not need to be in a specific order.

See pages 189-191 of the manual for more information.