4 Tips For Concise Online Writing
“If I had more time, I would make this letter shorter”
When asked in 1918 how long it takes him to compose a speech, President Woodrow Wilson replied:
Many people, from the mathematician Pascal, to Martin Luther, to Benjamin Franklin, Churchill, Mark Twain, and Henry David Thoreau, expressed the same sentiment: it takes time to write concisely. Hence the oft-repeated phrase “If I had more time, I would make this letter shorter.”
It goes against logic! But it’s true:
Writing isn’t that hard. What is hard? Making your point.
And your point is stronger the more concisely you express it. Anyone can simply babble on for pages, but it takes a skilled writer to craft a lean and pointed—in short, convincing—argument.
What does all this have to do with digital marketing?
The truth is, we don’t have long attention spans online. The best way to hook a reader is to not waste their time. Let’s cut our word counts and save everyone some time.
- Tip #1: Use White Space
There’s nothing like seeing a sea of endless words that makes us feel overwhelmed by what we’re about to read. In the online world we don’t need to conserve paper so we have the luxury of spacing out our words on the screen, making text easier on the eyes and the brain. Shorter paragraphs and shorter sentences keep things flowing and make it easier to skim.
- Tip #2: Don’t Anticipate What The Reader Thinks
A lot of mediocre online writing is peppered with phrases like: “I know what you’re thinking” or “Bet you didn’t expect that…” or “Looking for a way to more bring visitors?” While some of these phrases are FINE, they tend to be the easy way out for the marketer. The idea is that you’re showing the reader that s/he already wants to know what you’re going to say, and then you’re saying it. But there’s another way to do this: simply to give the reader the information s/he is actually looking for.
- Tip #3: Make Lists!
There’s a reason why we see so many lists online. They are a quick and simple way to get important information across. They are easy to skim, they support shorter tidbits of information, and they are clear in that they deliver what they promise without needing long-winded explanations.
- Tip #4: Edit!
The best way to keep it short and to the point is to find a great editor. That doesn’t mean you have to pay someone: you can be your own best editor with a little training. The thing that all editors must learn to be is ruthless.
Slash copy that isn’t relevant, eliminate redundant words, shorten sentences and eliminate confusing tangents, etc. If you are editing your own writing then make sure you put some time (preferably a night’s sleep) between the writing and the editing. It will help. Trust me.
All right everybody, let’s get out there and write. And let’s keep it to-the-point!