A small edit you can make which leads to crisper writing — get rid of the “wills”

Lynne Thompson
3 min readAug 3, 2022

As I have said before, writing is about two things — 1. creating, which is just letting thoughts flow on paper or screen — and 2. editing, which is revising what you have created to fit the purpose of the writing (an op-ed would be edited very differently from a scholarly white paper, e.g.). So creating is natural, and editing is cultural (you fit the writing into what the culture needs). I learned this years ago, when I took a class in the Theory of Writing.

With that in mind, this short article talks about 2. editing. There is one small edit you can learn to do that can really help make your writing more clear and tighter. It is called “look for the unnecessary wills.” This can be applied to all kinds of business writing — from writing emails to white papers to presentations.

What are unnecessary wills? They are the wills used when present tense would work best. I see this a lot in business writing (technical IT and others). It’s sort of natural when you are describing something that you haven’t finished writing yet as “it will…” but the reader will be reading a finished piece, so will doesn’t make sense. Try to avoid saying in an Introduction “This document WILL discuss the ….” Just say “This document discusses…”

Use Imperative or Simple Present Tense in Tech Procedures

Imperative is a demand or command. See examples below.

Imperative Sentence Examples

Imperative is a simple demand such as:

  • Pass the salt.
  • Move out of my way!
  • Shut the front door.
  • Find my leather jacket.
  • Be there at five.
  • Clean your room.
  • Complete these by tomorrow. (from yourdictionary.com)

Simple Present Tense

We use the simple present tense when an action is happening right now, or when it happens regularly (or unceasingly, which is why it’s sometimes called present indefinite). Depending on the person, the simple present tense is formed by using the root form or by adding ‑s or ‑es to the end. (from Grammarly).

Some examples are: The screen closes, Users see a new window, A new dialog box appears.

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Lynne Thompson

I always wrote (first poem at 6 years old). Tech writer by trade. I have a podcast The Storied Human: see my linktree — https://linktr.ee/StoriedHuman