Better Writing Skills #1: Slashing and Trashing to Optimize Communication

I’m working on a client’s newsletter, and I edited her message to editingmake it shorter and more succinct. I also increased its appeal with some visual enhancements–I broke up unwieldy paragraphs into shorter ones, used bullet points and added some snappy subtitles to get people’s attention. I also sexed up the subject line to make it a little punchier. This last part is all about merchandising—don’t be afraid to steal ideas from your savvy retail brethren.

It’s harder to write a little than a lot
My client wrote back that she loved what I’d done—that she had a propensity to become wordy. This is the single biggest issue for most of the people with whom I work. Somewhere along the line they learned to equate good writing with big words and complex sentence structure. It may work if you’re working on your novel, but it doesn’t work for business writing, not in our current environment where it takes people just three seconds to decide whether they’re going to read something or move on.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line
It’s a bit analogous to the old straight line theory: When it comes to business writing, the best writing is that which deploys the fewest–and most precise–words to make its point—the straight line.

The challenge and the solution for clearer communication

  1. Sit down and write your blog, article, web page, etc.
  2. Do this ahead of your deadline so you have plenty of time to review and edit—ideally at least a day in advance. After this has time to percolate, revisit it with improved objectivity.
  3. The challenge: Address every single sentence and ask yourself how you can make it shorter and more direct. Delete extraneous words that don’t help you prove a point or add value. Remember that the first sentence of each paragraph should identify the topic for the paragraph, with the remaining sentences supporting this initial statement.

Remember that it takes a lot of effort to learn to write less.

Need help with your blogs and newsletters? Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and digital media experts.

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