In my opinion, brevity is a seriously underrated writing skill. In a world where many of us are consuming content digitally, and often in a rush, being able to get your point across succinctly is essential for capturing and retaining your audience’s attention.
Of course, SEO largely went and ruined that when the Panda update came along. Copywriters across the world were suddenly asked to write 800-1000 word blogs on topics they knew very little about.
Cue 500 words of waffle before you’ve even got past the introduction.
We know Google likes useful content, but my advice to that would be not to try and create extra words from what you already have but to consider what additional information you can provide within your topic.
It shouldn’t be about ‘how can I pad that out?’, it should be about ‘how can I say more in less space?’. So how do you do that? Here are five tips:
Plan ahead – in my experience, content that meanders and waffles is often content that hasn’t been planned out properly. If you’ve already decided what you’re trying to get across and which information is going in which paragraph, you’re less likely to wander back and forth between topics, which subsequently can be confusing.
Check each sentence is saying something new – for me, the best way to be concise in your writing is to simply make sure that every sentence or paragraph offers something different and isn’t just another way of wording the point before it. When you do this, you lose pace and people begin to lose the thread of where you’re going.
Take out anything you don’t need – be ruthless. Take a sentence or paragraph and see what you can chop out without changing the meaning – you’d be surprised how much you can trim, whether that’s removing words or reordering a sentence. If it doesn’t add something (whether that’s information, or simply personality), let it go.
Use active voice – Using active voice rather than passive voice generally makes your content clearer and stops it becoming complicated and wordy. As the name would suggest, the sentence would normally start with the action. For example, ‘write more concisely to help readers understand your content’ rather than ‘readers can better understand content when you write it more concisely.’
Remove filler words – When you think you’re just about happy with your content, go back and look for filler words to take out. ‘That’ is a personal bugbear of mine. For example, I might have typed ‘when you think that you’re just about happy with your content’, but it just isn’t needed and usually makes the sentence sound more clunky.
It can feel a bit counterproductive to spend ages crafting content, only to spend more time cutting it in half, but I promise you it will improve the quality of your content, and increase its focus (and isn’t just a handy excuse for me to write a very short blog post this week ?)