We’re Not Wordy
July 26, 2013 | By Nikki Fotheringham
“Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.” Shakespeare
Economy of words has never been more important than it is with today’s lazy reader. You have only seconds to capture your reader’s attention before they merrily bounce on to another site, get an important call or multitasking draws their attention elsewhere. The ability to convey a wealth of information in as few words as possible is an art that can be easily learned with a few tips of the editorial trade. And it will make your content marketing more effective.
Adjectives, Adjectives everywhere and not a drop of ‘think’
Absolutely everything about adjectives and adverbs is actually totally awesome. With more words than most other languages combined, English is an expressive language with the perfect adjective or adverb for every occasion. You only need one adjective to effusively describe something. If you can’t think of anything but ‘awesome’, consult a Thesaurus. The Thesaurus is one of my best friends. In fact, I would say that I like it more than Google and use it twice as much. It is the most valuable arrow in my copy writing quiver and it makes me look far more erudite (Thesaurus strikes again!) than I actually am.
Our writing and speech is lousy with redundancies that we don’t even notice. Examples like ‘absolutely essential’ or ‘utterly unique’ are part of colloquial speech, but are utterly, completely and absolutely unnecessary (see what I did there?) Check that each phrase or word that you use adds something vital to your writing. The same goes for unnecessary phrases, particularly those people use when they are speaking in their ‘academic’ voices like; therefore, aforementioned, a considerable amount of and (my personal favorite) by definition.
Cut it out
While everyone has their own particular method for attaining literary perfection, I strongly recommend the deep edit. Write everything that you want in the piece down and then try to eliminate at least half of the words without jeopardizing the meaning or message. Achieving this goal may take several edits, but your writing will be cleaner, leaner and better for it. Be ruthless!
Avoid passive phrases and sentences as these tend to take up more space and have less impact. Positive sentences tend to be shorter than negative ones and besides, everyone loves an optimist.
Writing concisely takes much longer and requires more effort, but your writing will be clearer, more organized and read more often.
If I was brave enough to correct Shakespeare’s tirade from Hamlet, it would go from “Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.” to “Since brevity is the soul of wit, I’ll be brief.” But I’m not that brave!