Four quick and easy steps to shorten your copy so that your readers can get to the point quickly and clearly.
“If I had more time I’d write a shorter letter”
Churchill’s famous quote can teach us something. It’s widely accepted that short copy entices people to find out more, and long copy sells. So how can we do both at once? Write lean copy.
All writers start with fatty drafts. An essence of what we want the take-out message to be, but often a piece of disorganised copy that’s too wordy and rambling and cluttered. It’s in need of trimming and shaping – finding the salient points and culling the rest. Easier said than done though! So next time you’re in this situation, try these steps to cut down your copy:
Cut the crap
The expression ‘write like you talk’ is all good and well for your first draft but to make it lean you need to delete a few of those sneaky junk words like ‘very’ ‘really’ ‘it seems’ ‘could be’ and ‘I believe’. Anything that isn’t essential for the key message to still get across.
Adjectives can be cut too – although make sure you’re still giving the piece context. Sometimes you need to do this a little while after writing the first draft, so you can approach it objectively. Be ruthless, cut cut cut – you can always put back in if you need to. You should really be trying to lose at least a third of the word count of v1 (assuming you’re looking at long copy).
Expressions such as ‘winter months’ and ‘four year old child’ can be cut down to ‘winter’ and ‘four year old’ without losing context.
Take a closer look at the longest sentences in your text. People often get tied in knots trying to make verbs into nouns and vice-versa. “We carried out an assessment…” can be written as “We assessed…” Plus it makes you sound much more authoritative. Are you writing in the passive voice? “An investigation was carried out by Team A…” is longer and harder to follow, than just “Team A investigated…”.
Get creative with content
If you’ve absolutely got to squeeze everything in, then see if you can be creative about how you structure the text. Does your text contain a long, detailed explanation or a set of figures that’s only of interest to a few readers? Then move it into an appendix. Have you got a sentence with a long, wordy list? Then turn it into a bullet-pointed list. Is part of the space given over to an example or a case study? Then turn it into a separate fact box, a sidebar, make it an image or move it to another webpage altogether.
Tell a clear story
Often when we’re writing we get carried away and before you know it we could have four examples or ideas (depending on your topic) instead of one.
Cut it to one. Your reader will only read one and of they read all four they will only remember one.
And that’s it! Four simple ways to lose some fat off your first draft. Always bear in mind your reader wants to get to the point!
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