Brevity is the whatsit of thing.
You know the one I mean. Wit. Source. Other way around.
And conciseness, well, it’s similar only more important.
Conciseness is a skill that not enough bloggers take the time to develop. One that, if you demonstrate you’ve mastered it, will win you plenty of work even when other bloggers struggle to get hired.
It isn’t mere brevity. It isn’t only clarity. It’s a special, sparkling combination of the two that gives exactly the amount of information the reader needs, as briefly as possible without sacrificing any important details.
Say you have 500 words to write. You could write 500 smart, well-chosen words and make everyone (your readers, your clients, your editors, your bank) very happy. Or you could dish up 150 of the good stuff surrounded by 350 of fluff and redundancy.
A 3000-word epic blog post is still concise if every one of those words serves a purpose. Length is not the measure of conciseness. Value is.
Why do writers “waffle”?
If you’re paid per word, per page or per article, then you can output more billable words in less time by making some of those words pointless filler than by carefully researching your topic and using every word to inform and entertain.
The trouble with the waffle approach is that although you may make more money in the short term, you’ll make less of everything else: less sense; less of a contribution to the spread of clear and valid information; less of a reputation for quality writing; less of a good impression on the people who pay your wages (whether that’s your boss, your client, fee-paying members or an ad-clicking readership).
And that means, in the long term, you make less money, too.
Here are 6 simple ways to make your writing more concise:
#1: Have a Point
Don’t write without something to say. There’s little worse than a long-winded blog post that winds around several topics without ever settling on a direction. Decide on your objective for each post before you write, then target every word to achieve that objective.
#2: Stop Being Verbs
Every time you say “we were meant to be going” or “you want to be making a difference”, stop for a moment and consider: would it do any harm to shorten that up a bit? “We meant to go”, say, or “you want to make a difference”?
#3: Don’t Say This Is Your Opinion. Just Say Your Opinion.
When you write “I really think that…” or “in my opinion” or “I’ve come to the conclusion that…”, you’re wasting everybody’s time. Your readers assume that the opinions you’re expressing are yours, unless you say otherwise.
#4: Skip the Needle Off the Record
You know all that essay-writing stuff they teach you at school about your introduction and conclusion? “Tell them what you’re about to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you just told them”, or something along those lines?
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Those old rules of repetition do not apply in blogging. Your introduction doesn’t outline what you’re about to say; it outlines why people should care to keep reading. Your conclusion doesn’t summarise your argument; it summarises what you want people to do about it.
And that part in the middle? Just tell them what they need to know. Once. With empathy and enthusiasm.
#5: Know What You Mean
Because if you don’t know precisely what you mean, I sure as hell don’t know either. You can’t explain something you don’t understand, so make sure you’ve got your idea, your angle and your arguments clear in your mind before you begin.
#6: Need It or Skip It
Every time you add to your post, ask yourself: does your reader truly need this piece of information? Will it make their life better to know this, or will it merely add to the stack of information they know but never use? If it won’t add to your reader’s experience, don’t add it to your post.
There you have them. 6 simple ways to cut the crap and polish your blog posts to a fine finish. Apply the same principles in your queries and proposals to impress potential clients, too.
Conciseness separates the brilliant bloggers from the average.
It’s your secret weapon. Use it wisely and well.
Now let’s see you practise it in the comments!
Image: D Shannon Pruitt