No matter your topic, simple prose will serve you better than complex, wordy sentences. Not only does concise writing get your point across more clearly, it also stretches your reader’s attention span (a key factor for successful content creation). Everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Dr. Seuss agrees: When it comes to good writing, less is more.
No one writes concisely on their first draft, and trying to do so will only derail your train of thought.
Start by simply getting your ideas on paper (or the screen), without worrying about the word count. Otherwise known as “brain dump” or “word vomit,” writing down your ideas while ignoring things like grammar and punctuation is a great way to beat writer’s block and uncover ideas you might not have discovered if you continually interrupted yourself to address these minor issues.
Once you’ve got it all down, take most of it out. As you reread your article, flag the spots you trip over a sentence. Then read your content aloud. Are some spots still a mouthful? Re-word as necessary.
Lastly, make sure your article is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the ear. Add headers, organize appropriate content into lists, and splice up lengthy paragraphs to make your article more digestible for the busy reader.
You’ve written, reorganized, and clarified your thoughts. You’re still 300 words over the limit. Now what?
There’s a time and place for the passive voice (when you want to emphasize the object of an action, or the performer of the action is not known). But in most cases (and especially for content marketers), active voice is preferred. Not only is the active voice easier for readers to understand, but they say the same thing the passive voice does in fewer words. For example, “The boy was bitten by the dog, who was spotted” uses the passive voice, and forces the writer to add several additional words to include necessary details. Using the active voice eliminates these words: “The spotted dog bit the boy.”
Don’t water down your writing with qualifiers (somewhat, occasionally, generally) or intensifiers (very, extremely, quite). Pick a better word to get your point across: The woman isn’t very funny; she’s hilarious, or hysterical, or even uproarious. By choosing a more descriptive word, you’re not just cutting fillers. You can toy with the nuances each word carries, giving your writing depth that wasn’t there before. Saying that the man is very hungry, starving, famished, or hangry all mean the same thing, but carry drastically different connotations for your audience. This may seem like a small thing, but these little words add up.
I repeat: don’t be redundant. Repeating yourself can be a great way to emphasize a point, but there are plenty of redundant phrases that should be eliminated from your final draft. Common expressions like “moment in time,” “larger in size,” and even “plan ahead” may come to your mind first, but can be shortened to one word (“moment,” “larger,” and “plan”) when editing. These landmines may be tough to spot, but you’ll be rewarded with cleaner copy.
Any college freshman tasked with a 10-page term paper knows how to make fluff work in their favor — but once you’ve graduated, it’s time to kick the habit. “Fluff” writing is what you use to pad a story: It doesn’t add much to your article, but it sure takes up precious real estate. Readers will notice your drab content and will start to skim (or worse, click away from the page). If you’re overexplaining a simple point, providing more than a few examples to illustrate your meaning, or simply rambling on for four paragraphs when two will do, cut the unnecessary.
For readers, cliches can be a real pain in the neck, but for some writers, they’re all in a day’s work. (See what I did there?). These overused phrases do more than suck up space—they make you sound unoriginal, boring, or lazy. If you’ve heard it before, so have your readers. In some cases, cliches can be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence (“I cried like a baby” can become “I cried”). For others, rewording may be necessary, but take this as an opportunity to let your creativity come through.
These content creation tips may sound simple, but they’ll make a big difference in your final version. Keep a keen eye (and a fine-tooth comb) as you revise your content, and you’ll be one step closer to creating concise content.
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