36 ways to streamline your writing

Flabby prose offers little of value to your potential customers. Here’s a reduction plan to make your text leaner and cleaner.

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How lean is your writing?

A client works at a large firm that’s trying to introduce “lean” working processes companywide. His team of writers were producing distinctly unlean documents, and he needed help.

“Lean” processes debuted in Japanese manufacturing firms in the 1940s, and the concept has spread to other businesses. The idea is that you don’t waste resources on anything that doesn’t “add value” to the end customer. It’s about achieving more with less.

We’re not keen on the phrase “adding value,” but there’s something to this idea of lean production. Here’s how lean principles apply to writing:

Write for potential customers, not readers

1. Yes, your writing is a product aimed at a customer. Writing for a “reader” wrongly assumes an already captive audience. Writing for a potential customer makes you work to grab—and keep—their interest.

2. Know exactly who your customer is. If you’re writing for investors, they—not your boss—are your customers, not your boss. If you’re writing for employees, they’re your customers, not that “stakeholder” in HR.

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