Concise writing can help you cut down on unnecessary, excessive, superfluous, and extraneous material. Vague, unclear, or ambiguous writing is repetitive and redundant, plus it makes your writing appear sloppy and messy. (See what I did there?)
Now, it’s probably been a long time since you’ve seen writing that cluttered, but we all have room for improvement when it comes to concision. Wordiness stands out, and it can distract you or your audience from the main idea.
The opposite of cluttered writing is focused, concise writing, which eliminates unnecessary information.
When you limit your writing to only the material that explains or supports your main idea, that idea is more apparent and accessible for your audience.
Speaking of your audience, they’ll thank you for sparing them the unnecessary material. No one enjoys getting bogged down in irrelevant details or muddling through an 80-word sentence. Even if the content does apply to them, people are more likely to click away. If your content is meandering, so is your audience’s attention. You’re gonna lose ‘em.
So if you value your audience’s time or want to ensure that they can identify the most important content, you’ll want to keep your writing concise. And how do you keep your writing concise, you ask? I’m glad you asked.
Here are five tips to help focus your writing and avoid wordiness.
1. Pick one topic
We’ve talked before about the benefits of straightforward, focused infographic copy. The key takeaway? The best writing has one main point (yep, just one) with supporting details and context.
Say you want to send out a newsletter to prospective clients about your company. You have some basic facts and big ideas you want to include:
- Your company creates edible arrangements out of beef jerky
- Your company is one-of-a-kind
- Your company has a 96% satisfaction rate
- You recently created arrangements for an event with over 200 people
- You’re offering a special sale for Father’s Day
It would be tough to write about all five of these points in an email without losing focus or having them compete for attention. Instead, you could combine two of the most relevant points — maybe the sale and the purpose of the company — and focus on those. That doesn’t mean the other topics aren’t interesting; it simply means you can focus on one idea and save the rest for later.
2. Consider your audience
When you next sit down to write, consider how much information the audience needs to know. Then, think about how you can make that information as easy to access as possible. Pretty simple, right?
So back to beef jerky: Let’s say you already narrowed down your topic to cover the sale and the company’s purpose. Great! Now we flesh those two points out a bit. If your sale is for 50% off Father’s Day “bouquets,” you might want to address why you’re offering the sale in the first place and how it connects to your company’s overall mission.
This example is a bit whimsical, but a company like this hypothetical one might exist to bring joy to customers in a unique, unexpected medium. So keep it short and sweet: “A half-priced bouquet of fillets on your special day” gets to the sale itself and your purpose: to celebrate! Plus, it’s only ten words.
Audiences today have a huge amount of information to digest, so make sure your marketing content is skimmable. That means clear headings and subheadings, bullet points, callouts, and numbered lists (like this one!) for the most important information.
3. Delete unnecessary words
It’s tempting to add unnecessary words, but that’s exactly what they are — unnecessary. Think of common phrases like “added bonus” or “great perk.” Bonuses are already an addition to a previous state, and perks are already great, so the two words are redundant. Examine each word in your sentence. Is each one needed?
Some unnecessary phrases also introduce doubt into your writing. Take Lemonly, for example. Our slogan isn’t “We believe that we are the home of the world’s best infographics.” It’s simply “Home of the world’s best infographics.” Prefacing ideas with statements like “I think that” adds unnecessary words and weakens your argument.
4. Eliminate vague language
This tip puts the previous two together: Your audience doesn’t need to know unsolidified or vague information, and ambiguous words are extraneous words. Get rid of ‘em.
Vagueness is anti-clarity. It muddies your meaning, often in the interest of voice. But communicating clearly is better than using empty jargon or cutesy phrases. So say what you mean and make sure your meaning is specific and clear.
Here are some vague, wordy phrases to eliminate from your writing:
- “sort of”: This is an empty, wordy phrase that doesn’t communicate much of a point to your audience.
- “to a certain extent”: It’s wordy and vague. Phrases like this can also make you look like a less knowledgeable source.
- “very” and “really”: Like the other examples, these are imprecise and don’t add anything meaningful to your content. Use stronger words instead. It’s not “very good service” — it’s exceptional service. It’s not “very innovative tech” — it’s cutting-edge tech.
5. Keep your writing in the active voice
Alright, we saved the toughest for last. But active voice is key for maintaining clarity and concision. In active voice, the subject of the sentence comes first and performs the action of the sentence on the object. In passive voice, the object comes first, which often means you need to add extra words or that the subject is unclear.
Words like “is,” “was,” and “by” often indicate passive voice rather than active voice. See the examples for how you can easily fix these mistakes (hint: sometimes you have to change the verb).
- This stunning infographic was created by our company. → Our company created this stunning infographic.
- The infographic is full of lots of bright colors and fun designs. → Bright colors and fun designs fill the infographic.
- But the change in the previous sentence is hardly noticeable! → I hardly notice the change in the previous sentence.
People might not immediately notice or appreciate the change between active and passive voice, but it makes a difference in wordiness and readability. Advertising folks love when writing is “punchy.” Active voice makes your writing more punchy, direct, and impactful.
That’s all from me for today, folks. If you want more resources for how to make your content stronger, check out these posts we love:
- 8 Tips for Concise Writing: How to Write Clearly and Effectively
- Clear and Concise Writing
- Purdue OWL: Concision
And if your thoughts still feel a bit disorganized, messy, cluttered, or scattered, you know where to find a sweet content team to help you out. 😉 Reach out to Lemonly and let’s talk about your content!