Concise Writing Tips

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Internet readers demand concise writing. Not only is it difficult to read text on computers, Internet readers want specific information, and they want it now. They simply don't have the time to work through complex sentences or flowery prose.

Strunk & White on Concise Writing

Concise writing has always been important; it's not an Internet writing convention. In fact, browse through the table of contents of Stunk & White's The Elements of Style and you'll see several rules addressing conciseness including:

  • Omit needless words
  • Do not overwrite
  • Do not explain too much
  • Be clear

Reducing Word Count by 30 Percent

Those four rules provide a framework for concise writing. Before you go through your next piece, note its current word count and try to reduce it by 30 percent. Once you have a target word count, go through and cut as many needless words as you can. While it sounds hard, it's not. For example, let's look at this paragraph and see if we can reduce its word count from 74 words to 52.

Those four rules provide a framework for concise writing. When editing your work, try to reduce the word count by 30 percent, cutting as many needless words as possible. While it sounds hard, it's not. For example, let's try reducing this paragraph from 74 words to 52.

The above rewrite reduced the word count by over 30 percent on the first try. This 30 percent word count reduction goal forces you to examine each word and decide its fate. You may need to rework sentences, find stronger words, eliminate adverbs, combine sentences, switch from passive voice to active, or cut entire sentences, but the end result is worth it. Not only will your text be clear and concise, you'll have room to add information, making for information-packed copy that was previously loaded with needless words.

Choosing Strong Words

Word count limits require strong words. A single strong word can replace several weaker ones. For example, which of the following sentences is more effective?

  • The unhappy baby protested by crying.
  • The baby wailed.
  • The kids hoped to make it to school before the bell rang.
  • The kids raced to beat the school bell.

This week, practice concise writing by following Strunk & White's rules, reducing word count by at least 30 percent, and choosing stronger words.

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Celeste Stewart has 1 articles online

Celeste Stewart is a freelance website writer available for independent writing projects. Visit http://www.websitewordworks.com to learn more about her freelance writing service.

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This article was published on 2010/12/14