“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” -Thomas Jefferson
Despite his message being a little wordy itself, Thomas Jefferson’s quote should serve as the “Golden Rule” for content marketers today. With so many brands pumping out content to the World Wide Web, your online audience doesn’t have time to waste cutting through the clutter. Simply put, they don’t want to read a paragraph when all that’s needed is a sentence. That being said, without wasting any more of your time, check out these 5 tips for writing more concisely:
Be More Precise
Wordiness is the bane of a bad writer’s existence. Every unnecessary word you add to a sentence only helps dilute your writing and take away from the message’s meaning. For example, take a look at these two sentences about smartphones:
“A staple of communication for the modern businessman, smartphones play a vital role in executing everyday business procedures in today’s world.”
“Smartphones play a vital telecommunications role for the modern businessman.”
Though the first sentence may seem like it were written intelligently, it’s full of fluffy, redundant words that distract readers away from the core message. Rather than focusing your energy on the words that make a sentence sound good, focus on choosing the right words that drive your point across more effectively.
Avoid Passive Voice
In an active sentence, the subject comes before the verb; however, in a passive sentence, the order of the two is reversed (or the subject isn’t included at all). For example:
Passive – “The World’s Largest Webinar will be hosted by HubSpot on April 23rd.”
Active – “HubSpot is hosting the World’s Largest Webinar on April 23rd.”
Though passive voice isn’t considered a grammatical error, and can actually be helpful in certain situations, using passive voice forces you to use more words than necessary. You can avoid confusion, and keep the reader more energized and focused by writing in active voice instead.
Follow Your Thesis
As a writer, it’s common to have a million thoughts running through your mind at once. With a number of different subtopics stemming from your main argument, it’s easy to lose your track and deviate from the main talking points. That’s where your thesis statement comes in.
For any thesis-driven blog post, every part of your content should be geared toward supporting that argument. If you promise to provide 5 tips for writing more concisely, make sure you offer 5 tips for writing more concisely – NOT 4 concise writing tips and a creative writing tip! Carefully examine each paragraph and ask yourself whether or not it provides enough value in support of your overall message. If it doesn’t make a strong enough impact, delete it and try again.
Think About Your Audience
Despite a post’s word count or length, the best content writers always keep the needs of their audience at the front of their minds. By doing this, you can already help eliminate the potential use of unnecessary information. For example, try treating each post like your resume when applying for a new job. If you were applying to fill an open position with a financial services provider, you wouldn’t use your job history space to detail that time you spent the summer working as a landscaper, would you? Similarly, you wouldn’t shy away from using industry-specific terminology to prove your knowledge and authority in the financial services industry either. Knowing whom your audience is, what they know already, and understanding what they’re looking for can be quite helpful when determining exactly what you need to say.
Don’t Get Attached to Your Words
After spending several hours researching and writing the perfect blog post, the last thing any writer wants to see is a lot of red ink from their editor. Rather than reacting as if you’ve been asked to redo the Sistine Chapel, however, a good writer is able to take their constructive criticism in stride. When it comes time to remove any unnecessary sentences or paragraphs from your writing, don’t take it personally! Treat your words like replaceable commodities – if they don’t add meaning to your copy, don’t hesitate to remove or replace them.
Whereas other concise writing guides might focus on making every sentence as lean as possible, we want you to focus on the bigger picture. There are plenty of ways to trim a 12-word sentence down to 6 by using better word structure and following certain grammatical rules, but being concise is about more than just lowering your word count. Whether your blog has 2,000 or 200 words, any piece of content can be considered concise as long as it’s filled with exactly the right information for your audience – no more, no less. Focus on that and the concise writing battle is more than halfway won.