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How To Write Concisely




concise-writing-quote-elmore-leonard

 

Consider this wordy sentence: 'What I would like everyone to know is that online marketing is the art of getting the best value out of marketing spending using real-time tracking of cost and effectiveness.'

 

1. Eliminate slow wind-ups (e.g., replace 'at this point in time' with 'now', delete long windups like 'what I would like everyone to know' ).

Online marketing is the art of getting the best value out of marketing spending using real-time tracking of cost and effectiveness.

 

2. Eliminate clichés (e.g, put it in a nutshell; better late than never; a good time was had by all, best value).

 

'Online marketing improves results of of marketing spending using real-time tracking of cost and effectiveness.'

 

3. Highlight the 'is' forms (is, was, are, become, etc.) and prepositions (of, in, about, for, onto, to, etc.).

 

'Online marketing is used to get better results from marketing spending using real-time tracking of cost and effectiveness.'

 

4. Break the sentence into a list that starts with all the highlighted words.

 

Online marketing

is used to

get better results

from marketing spending

using real-time tracking of cost and effectiveness.

 

5. Identify the possible 'actions' and transform them into single verbs. (Process - Extract - Inform - Stimulate - Emanate)

 

6. Identify the subject of the sentence and choose the clearest action verb for that subject to take on.

Subject: Online marketing

Verb: get

 

7. With the action identified, eliminate 'is' forms, and excess/repeating prepositional phrases and words, bringing the subject and action verb together.'

 

'Online marketing gets better results from from marketing spending using real-time tracking of cost and effectiveness.'

 

8. Break long sentences into shorter sentences

 

Concise revision: 'Online marketing gets better results from from marketing spending. It tracks cost and effectiveness in real-time.'

 

(Based on: 'The Paramedic Method' by Richard Lanham)

 

 

Other ways to trim your writing

 

9. Always think in terms if 'what you can do without.'

 

10. Stick to specifics (remarkable facts, interesting details).

 

11. Paragraph headings are a good use of summarizing/eliminating longer stuff.

 

12. Use tables to compare things. Don't do the comparison in the text. Tables also mean you can use minimal grammar (incomplete sentences etc)

 

13. Maps and diagrams: Complex information best conveyed by maps and diagrams than dense lines of text.

 

14. Emphasis: If you really want to highlight something, say it in a word or two and then make it bold, doing away with writing long sentences.

 

15. Informal tone helps you write shorter. Formal tone means having to lots of leading wind-ups ('as you all already know...') and filler words ('actually'...)

 

You can also save on extra words by speaking directly to the user - e.g. use 'you' in the writing.

 

16. Cut and combine: Cut longer sentences into two, and combine two related but longer sentences into one, removing exra words/phrases to make the message more punchy.

 

17. Convert 'of' phrases to possessives.

For example, change the 'result of latest marketing campaign' to 'latest marketing campaign's results'.

 

18. Replace bloated phrases with simpler words.

 

Finally, whenever you start to write something, think in terms of what is that one thing this will be about? (headline) What are the things you want people to know? (main points) and what evidence you have in support of the point? (data).

 

Clear thinking results in clear, concise writing.

 

Thank you for reading.
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