Put your writing on a diet: 10 word-loss tips

At a time when attention spans are brief and characters on Twitter are few, it’s important to keep your writing tight. Use these tips to help you trim the fat.

I’ve struggled with controlling how much I eat ever since I was a kid. Friends will tell you I also have trouble limiting how much I talk. Nothing succeeds like excess, it seems.

Except with writing. I’ve rarely had trouble staying trim, a great asset at a time when people snack on information, feasting only on subjects of intense interest.

Here are 10 tips:

1. Know exactly what you want to say before you start to write. Just as a diet involves meal planning and shopping, lean writing requires advance thinking about what you want to say and how to say it. Don’t risk rambling down long roads that won’t take you directly to your destination.

2. When you revise, delete any words that are redundant or not vital to your mission, especially jargon. Watch for fatty adverbs and adjectives. Replace fuzzy descriptions with one precise word. Keep the best; ditch the rest.

3. Reorganize words more logically, and you’ll reveal redundancies to chop.

4. Don’t try to force food, or words, down people’s throats. Entice them to follow the links, rather than making them struggle through nonessential information first.

5. Embed your links into your copy, rather than frittering away words that add no value, such as Click here.

6. Pretend you have to pay for each word you use. Or choose them as carefully as you would the food for your Weight Watchers points.

7. Keep practicing. Summarizing is a brain function that can improve.

8. If you have trouble letting go of a word or section, cut and then paste it on the end of your document. You can snatch it back if you absolutely need it, but you’ll probably end up deleting it.

9. Assume your readers have too much to read. They will appreciate your brevity. And they’re more likely to understand and remember you if your writing is lean and focused.

10. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your readers—and showing off your buff writing to them.

Barb Sawyers combines her love of writing and talking in her ebook Write like you talk—only better, and in her blog, workshops and communication services for business and nonprofit clients.


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