The Art of Being Succinct

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The Art of Being Succinct

Years ago, Twitter confused me. I wondered who could express a complete thought in 140 characters, or less.

I’m programmed to think more is better. Often clients ask me to thrill with details and engaging examples via long-form content that dives deep into a topic.

As I started to understand hashtags and tagging other users on Twitter, I admired the task of being short, quippy.

Today, I adore Twitter. I love making an impact with words, quick!

Brevity is hard.

I almost always exceed the recommended word count in a first draft.

Then, I edit.

Over the years I’ve become strict, removing more of the verbal pauses in my writing than ever before. My husband commented on my overly exuberant (but correct) use of commas the other day. Yes, I’m a comma-lover. Long, winding sentences that dance though a piece help tie together the short, pointed thoughts, right? I think so!

But, we could all tighten up our words just a bit.

Grab the red pen, now.

Every time I read the final cut of an article I’ve written, I realize that I actually don’t miss the hundreds of words that previous loitered the text.

  1. Edit for clarity. Are you making the same point multiple times, but just saying it in different ways? I have a habit of doing this when I want to drive a point home, but it’s not necessary. Instead, work with the idea until it’s clear and relatable, then move on.
  2. Chop extraneous words. When I’m asked to write in a conversational tone, I start many sentences with “So,”, “Then,” and other lead-in words that represent how I speak. A few of these are fine to meet a tone requirement, but often half or more of these pauses can be deleted.
  3. Tighten meandering sentences. Using passive voice can instantly confuse or lose readers. Be in the moment. Write actively, with the present tense, whenever possible. I even have one marketing client who highlights passive voice in rough drafts, prompting me to re-work lingering past-tense language.
  4. Remove entire sections. After a draft is complete, read the piece as a whole. Is there a paragraph or two that seem out of place? Could they become the base for a new article? I like to edit my posts (and generate new ideas!) by honing the core topic.

Editing can be painful, but is a necessary part of the writing process. Think of it like getting a haircut. You were happy enough with your existing ‘do, but feel so much better once the ragged edges disappear and a polished look emerges.

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