How to Write Less and Say More

Written by  on Apr 17, 2017

Have you ever read an article in which the author seems to drone on? By the end, you can’t even remember a thing you’ve just read?

That can happen with a lot of writers. We love words — all of the words.

 Unfortunately for us, web users aren’t interested in reading verbose musings, no matter how artfully they’ve been strung together. You can expect your average reader to read just a fifth of the words on the page.

But writing less doesn’t mean you have to convey fewer ideas. Fewer words can be more effective. Here are ways you can reduce word count while maintaining the quality of your content.

Shorten the introduction

When a user is on your page — be it the homepage, a blog post, a product description — they’re interested in the content. They might have been directed by a Google search, social media or an email. Whatever the source, they already have some level of interest.

Therefore, a lengthy introduction is unnecessary. Make your point about why the reader should care, and get to the meat of it. Many readers might skim the intro regardless, but don’t entirely neglect those who actually read the first few paragraphs.

This doesn’t mean you should replace a strong introduction with a weak, short one. The short one needs to be just as strong — if not stronger. Just get to the point quickly and effectively.

Begin with what’s important

To craft a strong yet brief introduction, set the stage in a sentence or two. Weave in a stat to prove why your readers should care. Sum up what you’re about to discuss, but don’t give away too much.

If you start with what’s important, you’re less likely to include superfluous or irrelevant details.

Know your audience

Before writing content, you need to know your audience.

Identifying your audience is part of your content strategy. Content strategies help you speak directly to your readers. And when you know exactly what they want, you don’t need as many words.

Pay attention to your diction

Diction — or word choice — is the crux of good writing. The words you put on a page must be chosen carefully. Fluff words that devalue your content should be cut or replaced.

Adverbs can help qualify certain word, but they generally don’t lend themselves to succinct writing. Instead of saying someone walked away angrily, say that they stormed away. Instead of writing that someone was very hungry, write that they were famished.

Don’t go overboard looking for synonyms. If you’re choosing between a lesser-known, complicated word and a universally known one, go for the latter. Recognizability is more important than impressing readers with obscure vocabulary.

Use the active voice

The use of the passive voice often makes sentences lengthier and the overall tone presumptuous. Instead of saying “I am fascinated by people,” you can write “People fascinate me.”

Write everything, then cut it in half

You’ve written your article. Let it sit, occupy yourself with other things, and come back to it the next day. Self-editing is imperative, especially if you don’t have budget to hire an editor.

Identify places where bullet points or lists may make the content easier to read, and cut all your lengthy sentences in half. Some marketers even suggest reading your text from bottom up, instead of the normal order.

Make images do the work

Use imagery to help hammer home your points. Images, videos, charts and diagrams can actively engage the reader and communicate a point that may otherwise require several sentences.

Hire an editor

Self-editing may not provide you with the qualified outside perspective you need to polish your product.. It can be hard not to be married to the content you produce, or to have the time to go back and proofread your copy with a fresh perspective.

In such cases, hiring an outside editor with expertise in digital content can make your writing more succinct and user-friendly. Depending on your editing needs, you can use an individual contractor or an agency to take on the task.

Remove redundancies

Redundancy doesn’t just add words, it weakens a writer’s points. Reading an article packed with superfluous information causes readers to lose interest and forget the point the author was trying to make.

Avoiding redundancy lean on strong diction. If you choose impactful words, you won’t need to over-write to try and clarify your point.

Ignore word count

Let’s say your strategy dictates that blog posts on your website must 1,500 words or more, while the topic can be summed up in 500 words.

There are two routes you can go in this circumstance. The first is to ignore the strategy and publish a succinct 500-word blog.

If you’re adamant about hitting your word count, avoid adding convoluted fluff. Reframe your article to include more information. What else might someone want to know about this topic that you haven’t already addressed? Try Googling related search terms to find relevant information, and go from there.

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