They say the worst thing you can do when you write is waste a lot of time and space on virtually hollow words that really don't say much, also seems pointless at best.
And if that windy sentence doesn't make the case for conciseness in writing, few sentences will.
As you assess your own writing – or the words of a writer who may be working with your company – it behooves you to prune sentences like you would prune a weak and sorry looking shrub, making it stronger and fortifying its color with your deft hand.
The only risk? Bludgeoning your words so you're left with too many staccato sentences – or, to extend the metaphor, left with a hatchet job devoid of style and color.
Conciseness goes to the heart of brevity, but not at the expense of imparting information. As Purdue University's esteemed online writing lab points out, “The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words. Concise writing does not always have the fewest words, but it always uses the strongest ones.”
Lighten and sharpen your writing
Concise writing is more readable, engaging and memorable. You can invigorate your company's content when you sharpen your literary “pruning shears” and:
- Scrutinize every word in a sentence. If a word is irrelevant or fails to advance the sentence, delete it. If it's dull or unclear, replace it with a better one.
- Remove repetitious words – as well as words and phrases with similar meanings – from within the same sentence as well as the following sentence.
- Edit redundant word pairs, such as “free gift,” “true facts,” “past history,” “final outcome,” “end result,” “future plans” and “unexpected surprise.”
- Edit redundant categories. Words can denote a category, so you don't need both, as in “the month of February,” “at a late time,” “light in weight” and “small in size.”
- Convert phrases into single words or adjectives, as in changing “the boss with ambition” to “the ambitious boss” and “the team with the highest score” to the “highest-scoring team.”
- Avoid most qualifiers, including “rather,” “very,” “little” and “somewhat.”
- Eliminate cliches – unless you're creative enough to turn one upside down or can memorably elaborate on one. Yes, cliches breed familiarity. But left alone, they're unimaginative and dull. If you're fed up with coworkers who “chew the fat,” tell them to spit it out and get on with business. If you wish to convey someone's “days are numbered,” imply that counting may not be their strong suit, either. And if you can't resist referring to a project as “a piece of cake,” you might infer you have a taste for pizza.
- Change vague prepositional and noun phrases to concrete words. “The teacher talked at length about several of the reasons you'd want to sign up for after-school tutoring at the beginning of the class” is inferior to “The teacher promoted the benefits of tutoring.”
- Look for the opportunity to combine two lackluster sentences into one robust sentence, changing “The competition was held yesterday. It shouldn't have happened over lunch” to “Yesterday's lunch-time competition was ill-timed.”
- Replace “big” words with simple words. Every discipline invokes jargon, and it's OK to use it to make a point – as long as everyone in your audience understands it. As William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White put it in their landmark book, “The Elements of Style”: “Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy.”
No piece of writing – whether it's a short blog, a long white paper or a one-page email – should be done in isolation. Formulating a cohesive content marketing strategy will help you achieve the best results for your marketing dollar. Turn to the skilled and experienced team at ADTACK by calling for a free consultation at 702-270-8772. We'll be more than your best marketing advocate; we'll become your best editor, too.