Put your posts on a diet

You’ve written a hot post and your mouse is poised over the Publish button.

Stop right there. Before you can flaunt, you need to cut the fat so those writing muscles can be admired.

You need to shorten the length so readers have fewer words to march through and reorganize ideas so they’re easier for readers to follow.

Some people allow their egos to get in the way here. Sure, much of what you have just written is buff. But you need to get rid of the flab that is covering it.

When I first started working at a daily newspaper, my feelings were hurt when my editor told me to chop my article in half. But the result was much better. In fact, over the years I’ve found cutting my length in half is usually wise advice.

This applies not only to longer writing, but also to quick emails and tweets.

Assume that your readers have too much to read. They will appreciate the brevity. And they’re more likely to understand and remember you if your writing is lean and focused.

Start with individual words that are redundant. For example, why write “free complimentary webinar” when “free” and “complimentary” mean the same thing?

Whack “complimentary” because everyone understands “free” and you won’t misspell it.

You may also find that some weasel words have snuck in from your corporate or technical jargon. Cut them.

Next take a look at your adjectives and adverbs. Are they necessary? Do they help readers understand what you’re saying? Reduce or remove.

And what about fuzzy words? Often several unclear words or phrases can be replaced by one precise term.

In the heating of writing, it’s only natural for some thoughts to slip in where they don’t best belong. Move or exterminate. You might try try pasting all your related ideas under one subheading, then seeing how many can be shed.

In addition to these serious recommendation, I have two easy tricks.

1. Pretend you are being charged for each word you write. That motivates me.

2. Search your document for the word “that.” We need these words more when we’re talking than we write. You may be surprised how much you can reduce your word count this way.

Never, ever try to write to a certain length. Busy readers are turned off by linguistic obesity.

Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about writing better. And showing off that hot post.

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One Response

  1. Thanks, useful tips.

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