One of the fastest ways to improve your writing, especially in the blogosphere, is by learning to write tight. Writing tight as I like to say, isn’t just a matter of removing those ifs, and’s, but’s, and so’s, it’s about finding the shortest way from A-B, without losing your own flair or basic comprehension. Easier said than done.
Here are 3 easy ways to improve your writing tight skills:
Remove Unnecessary Words
In short, take out the so’s, if’s, and’s and but’s. I have a family member look over my writing and we sometimes disagree when it comes to the conversational flow of a piece. I take out all the little additives because I think it strengthens the overall impact.
But don’t take my word for it. I refer to the penultimate guide to writing well, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. It states, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph, no unnecessary sentences.” If the meaning is the same and you can take out those little additives, do it.
There is also a reason that we don’t include those conversational additives in writing. When we listen to someone, we find that speech is “informal and repetitive” (University of Westminster) and we can filter out the excess. But when reading, our brain gets hung up on the unnecessary, it confuses, it muddles, it jumbles the clarity of the sentence. In writing, we know the ultimate aim, we can go back and edit and make the sentence clear.
So, I went to the store the other day, it was Tuesday, and I went because there was a sale, and I saw my arch nemesis from high school.
I went to the store last Tuesday, they had a sale and I saw my old arch nemesis.
Reading aloud serves many purposes. It can help edit a document, you can get a feel for the flow, and it will help you to really hone in those sentences. If you find yourself bored and wandering while reading your writing aloud, go back and change it. If you’re bored, your audience most definitely will be.
I was looking for some statistics about online content consumption and found this awesome chart on Uberflip. The numbers speak for themselves.
- 55% of all page views get less than 15 seconds of attention.
- 60-70% of content churned out by B2B marketing departments today sits unused.(SiriusDecisions)
- In 2008, a study concluded that visitors will only read about 20% of the text on the average page. (Jakob Nielsen)
- 2-3 letter words are skipped over almost 75% of the time, while 8 letter words are almost always fixated upon. (Eyethink)
- It takes people approximately 20-30% longer to read online than it takes to read on paper. (ResearchGate)
- In a recent heat map analysis, CoSchedule learned that only 10-20% of readers were actually making it to the bottom of their posts. (CoSchedule)
Yikes! Clear, short, quick, that’s the name of the game. Reading aloud is a great way to achieve this.
First Draft, Let it Flow. Second Draft, Let it Go
For your first draft, let it flow. Ignore everything and just let your speaking voice dictate your writing. Then, go back and take out the excess. You’ll be surprised at how much you can cut without losing meaning or sounding like a robot.
At the end of the day, you have to keep it true to you. But try and imagine your readers, their (short) attention spans, and what they can and can’t filter out.
What do you think? Is the occasional so or but acceptable, or completely out of the question? Do you prefer reading stylized or conversational pieces? Who edits your work? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe and get my eBook templates to help you towards freelance success.