Have you ever noticed how certain writers have a n unparalleled mastery of the English language. In every sentence they craft, they never waste words , and still manage to communicate their point with a succinct grace.
Their prose is
nothing short of amazing. It’s economical, to the point and most of all, clear. This concise crafting of copy is a joy to read, it instils confidence in the reader not just by being useful, but by also managing to communicat eing the primary benefit and message in a very short period of time.
short and clear approach to writing attracts a lot of attention from the readers at large. Check any piece of successful content and you’ll see that a concise approach often brings thousands of likes and dozens, if not hundreds of comments. Although all audiences are different and require differing approaches to produce content that appeals to them, blockbuster content across the board always shares one common element. Regardless of industry, audience or approach, all successful content exercises extreme brevity.
“C’mon Pete, Brevity’s Not That Important. Is it?”
Yup, it really is.
Whether your content’s aim is to inform, educate, entertain or sell there’s one golden rule you need to follow.
Your content, regardless of use, needs to be as long as necessary, and no longer.
The average online attention span is now a paltry 8.5 seconds.
Do you really think someone is going to sit and read a 2000 word essay on a topic that could be summed up in a paragraph? Of course they’re not. They’re going to go to the website or publication that has covered the story in as few words as possible.
People are busy. They don’t want to waste time reading your fluff. That fluff might make your article sound nice, but it distracts from the main point of your article and bores your readers.
Impactful copy always gets to the point. Its author has ignored the desire to waffle, they’ve trimmed every last piece of fat ensuring the only words left are those that have meaning.
So What’s the Secret to Concise, Kick-Ass Copy?
That’s it. No big secret or hidden method. Comprehensive editing is the only way to achieve concise copy that hits the mark.
It seems so easy, right? Just edit away all fluff and you’ll be writing like the pros.
However, editing your content is extremely difficult. Anyone can cover a topic in 2000 words. To cut it down to 500 words whilst retaining the full impact and usefulness is something few can achieve.
Shorter pieces take longer to create because you’ll spend twice as long editing. This should be reflected in your rates. My fee for a short lead gen email is double that of a 2000 word blog post because I have to spend so long in the editing stage.
Mark Twain had it right when he said:
If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.
So editing is the key, but what exactly should you edit out?
Three Quick Editing Tips to Create Copy that Converts
Channel Your Inner Slasher Movie Villain
Cut mercilessly. Never stop, and never apologise.
Look at the intro to this piece. 50-60% has been cut.
Does it change the message? No. Does it make it harder to read? If you ignore the red, then no.
So it’s easier to read and the message hasn’t changed.
Avoid Weak Adjectives and Verbs
Have you ever seen Dead Poets Society? If you’re a writer and you haven’t, shame on you! There’s a 30 second segment where Robin Williams manages to sum up how to cut weak adjectives from your writing.
This not only cuts useless words, but also helps establish you as a better writer.
Take the same approach with verbs. Use action verbs instead of weak sentence structures (to be or to have) that rob your verb of its impact.
Here’s an example that also explains the concept.
- An action verb is a verb that represents an action
- An action verb represents an action
Here’s one more for clarity’s sake.
- He was considering moving to the US
- He considered moving to America
Stop Repeating Yourself!
Repetition helped fill word counts when at school. But you’re a pro writer now.
No one wants to read repetitive phrases. Below are just a few examples of needlessly repetitive phrases.
- Her dress was blue in colour – She wore a blue dress.
- We completed it in a shorter period of time – We completed it in a shorter time
- He checks his bank balance on a daily basis – He checks his bank balance daily
- His future plans involve an extended holiday – He plans to take an extended holiday
Get the picture?
Repeating useless words might fill up a word count, but it also damages the impact of your copy.
Your Ability to Write is Your Bread and Butter
We talk a lot about how to pitch, negotiate and set rates. These are all important aspects of your business, but if you can’t back these up with solid writing you’re going to get nowhere.
I don’t care what kind of writer you are, your success hinges on your ability to create concise copy. You need to spend as much time on the business side of your career as improving your skills as a writer.
One without the other leads nowhere.
Improving your skills as a writer is a long and arduous road. The editing tips outlined above are a great way to add the extra punch to your copy, but you’re also going to have to work on the other areas of vocabulary, grammar and syntax.
Perhaps that’s an article for another day. In the meantime, if you’re serious about improving your writing then I highly recommend Stephen King’s On Writing. This book has been the biggest help in improving my own abilities as a writer. The
added bonus? It’s also pretty damn cheap!
This is an edited and updated version of an article originally published in Aug 2014!
Also published on Medium.