Do you know someone who takes forever to tell a story? Despite their best intentions, they wander off on endless tangents and digress with irrelevant details. By the time the story is completed, the point is long lost.
While in a social setting a series of polite nods may be the norm, online disdain is expressed through a swift click away. With the enormous amount of our time spent online, each interaction must be efficient, productive and fruitful.
The power of less
For centuries, those who are able to convey volumes with few words have earned enduring respect and esteem. Consider these idioms, which have been in our culture for hundreds of years:
Speak softly and carry a big stick (Theodore Roosevelt, 1900)
A man of few words (Shakespeare’s King Henry V, 1599)
Less is more (Robert Browning poem, 1855)
Each of these well-known phrases is direct and impactful. They don’t include an endless series of qualifying phrases or descriptive adjectives. By initially paring your words to the essentials, you can layer on shading and details more effectively. Follow these tips to increase the discipline and effectiveness of your writing:
1. Eliminate the superfluous. Whether your guilty pleasure is unnecessary words, excessive detail or writing in a complex tense (ex: “have been enjoying” in place of “enjoy”), the buck stops here. Allow words to flow onto the page to get your ideas out; then challenge yourself to cut the word count by half.
2. Select your voice carefully. Once you’ve pared back your text, identify opportunities to swap out word choices to add personality and reinforce your brand voice. Simply altering your phrasing can make your content more dynamic, creating a lively and engaging experience.
3. Lose the tech-speak. As a master in your field, industry vernacular rolls off your tongue as part of your everyday vocabulary. But when you “talk shop,” potential customers may not even follow what you’re saying, much less understand how you can help. Craft content in customer-focused terms.
4. Capitalize on the power of three. Create a pattern to involve readers using the rule of three. Information presented as a series of three elements is more easily absorbed and retained. Whether within a sentence or an entire article, readers expect and anticipate the third item in a series, increasing their involvement and your influence.
5. Create a captivating rhythm. Don’t drone on in a monotone. To connect with your audience, use colorful vocabulary, vary sentence structure and create imagery with your word choice. Add examples and case studies to reinforce your points and retain the reader’s attention.
Ironically, it’s more difficult to write fewer words. Concise copy is both more effective and respectful of your audience. Apply the above steps routinely when crafting content, but if you’re struggling, contact us — we can help.
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This post was originally created in 2014 and has been refreshed for relevance.