6 ways to cut copy for more powerful prose

Your ‘perfect’ text needs surgery, if not an outright amputation. Here’s what to excise—or lop off.

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Finally happy with that document you’ve been working on all morning?

Great, now go back and cut 20 percent.

That’s right. Shear off one-fifth of it before you press “send.” I guarantee the result will be better than what you have now.

Not sure where to start? Here are hints on what to discard.

1. Nix that first paragraph

Whoa, sounds a bit drastic, doesn’t it?

Maybe. But if you’re like every other business writer out there, that first paragraph is just a load of corporate throat-clearing anyway.

If your opening line resembles any of the following, you’ve fallen prey to the preamble:

“At xxxx, we pride ourselves on/are committed to/believe in focusing on…”

“As a team leader, you play a critical role in the success of…”

“In my last message to you all I said…”

“In line with our strategy for…”

“In the last year, we have delivered…”

Don’t provide the strategic context. Don’t talk about what happened last year. And don’t tell your reader what they already know.

They’ll be skipping this stuff anyway, so ditch dull warm-ups like the above and get to the point.

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