The Need to Say More with Less – Concise Writing Tips

As attention spans keep getting shorter, tight writing becomes more and more important. In recent years, people have shown a tendency to ignore and scan any content which does not appear to be written tight. But what is tight writing? Tight writing is a matter of survival, says Copyblogger Associate Editor Jon Morrow. There is another name for it – concise writing. Writing which cannot be any shorter or longer.

But it takes some time to use concise writing to your advantage. Ideally, you want your work to have as many readers as possible to judge its work. If your writing isn’t concise, however, you may get some readers who like your work. The majority, however, will scan a sentence or two (this is especially typical online) and then run away to the hills, never to come back.

In contrast, if your writing is concise and interesting, these people will not scan or go away. They will read. Of course their reading it doesn’t guarantee your success, but it is one step closer all the same. If your writing subject matter interests the readers and if there is something for them in it, then people tend to stay and think. And, if it is great, possibly spread the word as well.

Two different consequences. One to your favour, the other not, just because the question whether your writing was concise or not decides and divides the readers’ interests.

So hopefully, you now know that concise writing is a must to master if you want to influence other people, want to be thought outside the box, different, special, whatever. In the end, your writing itself becomes the judge – and great writing always has this one characteristic. Guess what, it is concise writing.

Some Concise Writing Tricks

The first ingredient of concise writing is clarity. If clarity isn’t in your writing, then, suffice to say, you’re doomed. Check out my article on clarity, Why Clarity Matters (In a Way You Don’t Know About).

Then comes the question of paragraphs. Yes, it’s a common tip, but none the worse for it. I will not say you should write small paragraphs. That advice only applies to some niches. In other niches, it is perfectly fine to write long paragraphs, although this is only because of the audience. If you want your writing to be appreciated by most people, then the trick is to mix them up. Write a small paragraph. Then write a long one. Write two short ones. Then write a long one. Three short ones. And so on…

Bottom line is: don’t get stuck to advice. Yes, there is plenty of great advice on the Web. Some recommends the use of short, simple sentences. I agree with that, because as most of us aren’t authors, we don’t handle long sentences all that well. But occasionally, you may slip in long sentences as well between short ones. I bet you didn’t realize that one of the sentences in the paragraph is a long one. Slipped in naturally and artfully, no one cares.

So we are definitely on our way to learn concise writing. Wow, we learned a few things in the last section already. But wait, there’s more!

Use headings and subheadings in your writing. If you’re a novelist, try to break up chapters and scenes as often as you can. Remember, there’s no such thing as a small chapter, but there is one such as the ridiculously long chapter. If you’re an article writer, try to break up long sections of it with subheads (online, the H3 tag works well). Same goes for other literary forms of writers. If you have something long, break it up into bite sized chunks.

Use grammar and sentence structure to your advantage. I know what you’re thinking. How can grammar help me now? Easily. Hold on with me a second as I take you back to grammar…

You know simple, complex and compound sentences? If you don’t, the link should be able for you to remember. Well, in your writing, utilize all of them. Don’t use all simple sentences in your writing. Same goes with complex and compound ones. Try to use them to jolt the reader into paying attention, by not settling into a preferred sentence structure and instead using all of them. This helps readability and makes writing “sound” nicer.

Have you ever heard of something like “filler” words? If you haven’t, let me explain. When we talk, we say words like “really, just, like, actually” (which are adverbs and adjectives) in our speech. There is a good advice on the Web recommending writing like we talk. I’ll give my opinion in a future article, but for now, I’ll just say that unfortunately many people slip in these words in their writing.

For me, Brian Clark of Copyblogger nails it when he says:

“Write like you talk – only better.”

Which means… cut these filler words from your writing. And then you will feel (and know instantly) that your writing has improved, and you are a better writer.

So that’s it for concise writing tips today. What’s up next? The first article on Writers’ Treasure about grammar.

Have Your Say

Share your comments in the comment section. Whether you agree, or disagree, I’m eager to hear. And if you liked this one, feel free to spread the word.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for yet another useful post, Idrees, how a boy your age comes up with these things is beyond me, but it is really helpful for one much older than you.

    Keep it up and take care now,

    Stories

Trackbacks

  1. [...] If you’ve got a short word count for those who prefer short word counts, then it’s great. Same thing if you’ve got a long word count for those who prefer them. It all depends on the content anyway, and if you’ve really got something good then you’ll get exceptions. In this case, word count doesn’t matter — it really is an aside. You should be more worried about making your writing concise. [...]

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