Shortening A Long Abstract

The abstract is the second most crucial component of your academic paper after the title. The length of an abstract for most journals or lecturers is between 250-300 words; some journals or lecturers may ask for as low as 150 words.

Writing an abstract is easy, but shortening a long abstract to fit the word count is not. This article provides some practical tips to reduce your long abstract.

Remove or rewrite excessively long sentences

Read through the long abstract you have written and look out for cumbersome and excessively long sentences. Avoid using elaborate constructions and superfluous words. Rewrite those sentences in shorter and stronger ones. The abstract is the summary of points in the academic paper, make it brief by removing or rewriting long sentences.

For example:

a. Unnecessary Sentence: The majority of respondents agreed that poor governance was harmful to society.

Replacement: Most respondents agreed that poor governance harmed society.

b. Unnecessary sentence: Healthcare spending declined as a result of low income.

Replacement: Healthcare spending declined due to low income.

c. Unnecessary sentence: The people of Israel dug underground chambers in order to escape the airstrikes from Syria.

Replacement: The Israelis dug underground chambers to escape the Syrian airstrikes.

Avoid Passive Sentences

Avoid passive sentences for two reasons – one, it makes your writing less engaging and clear, and two, it lengthens the sentence. Passive sentences are unnecessarily lengthy. Replace passive sentences with active sentences to make them clearer and shorter.

To do this, reword it, so that person doing the action comes first before the action. For example:

a. Passive Sentence: The new computing system is tested by the respondents.

Active Sentence: The respondents test the new computing system.

b. Passive Sentence: The hypothesis is confirmed by the SWOT results.

Active Sentence: The SWOT results confirm the hypothesis.

c. Passive Sentence: In the testimonial section, solutions are offered.

Active Sentence: The testimonial section offers solutions.

Avoid the noun style

The noun style makes sentences longer than necessary and sometimes difficult to understand. Replace the noun style with the verb style. For example:

a. Noun Style: The study provides a highlight of the problems.

Verb Style: The study highlights the problems.

b. Noun Style: The results were agreeing with the theory.

Verb Style: The results agreed with the theory.

c. Noun Style: Smokers should reduce their use of tobacco.

Verb Style: Smokers should use less tobacco.

Avoid repetition

Please read the abstract out aloud to help you spot repetitions that make the abstract longer. If you find any, swiftly eliminate them. Combining two or more sentences into one and replacing nouns with pronouns are simple ways to reduce repetition and shorten your text.

For example:

a. With Repetition: In conclusion, based on the findings of the system, the TAB strategy has a negative effect on employees. The employees opined that it is a less than satisfactory work system.

Without Repetition: This study shows the negative effect of TAB strategy on employees. They opined that it is unsatisfactory.

b. With Repetition: The research results are obtained from oral evidence of eyewitness. Government records and missionary accounts capturing the events contributed to the research results.

Without Repetition: The research results are from eyewitness and missionary accounts, and government records.

Avoid detailed descriptions

An abstract is not the place to provide detailed definitions or background information. Avoid including definitions in the abstract. Only include the main points in the paper in the abstract. Keep this in mind as you go over the long abstract you want to shorten.


Writing a good abstract is an art, but writing a short synopsis is a science. Keep your abstract short by avoiding unnecessary words and sentences, repetition, detailed descriptions, passive sentences, and noun style forms.

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