Writing succinctly for your audience is the key to keeping their attention. It sounds easy, to write something short and sweet… but keeping it simple and avoiding unnecessary fluff can take a lot of time to master!
A great way to practise writing short but sweet copy is to take a long-ish social media post and paste it into a Tweet. Trim until you’re within Twitter’s character limit. Most of the time when I do this, I prefer the shortened version because it does a better job of saying what it should!
Using 100 words when 50 will do just fine is wasteful. Not only does it take you longer to come up with reams of long-winded text, it can also overwhelm the reader and make them switch off before they reach the end.
So here are my top tips for writing what you need to (and no more). I’ll try to keep it brief…!
1. Do a brain dump
Start by getting everything out – don’t worry about the order or how it’s written, just dump all your thoughts down onto paper (or your laptop).
2. Whittle it down
Imagine you’re packing your suitcase for a holiday and you only have 10kg of hand luggage… What do you really, really need? Prune out anything that’s not critical in telling the story.
3. Structure into sections
You need to give people a reason to commit to reading the whole piece, so communicate the point of your content within the first few lines.
What’s the benefit to the reader of what you’re writing?
The most important point should go first. Expand on this in the following section by giving some research, an explanation or an example to quantify what you’re saying, but don’t over-egg it.
End with a call-to-action or something punchy that concludes your point.
Now you can go through each section and get to work on writing it well.
Use short sentences and avoid long paragraphs.
Cut out unnecessary words – sometimes we fill out sentences with words like ‘really’, ‘very’, that’, when the sentence would still make sense without them.
Are there any stuffy, formal words that you could swap for shorter ones? (Enquire/Ask; Due to the fact/Because)
Take a break and come back to read it afresh.
Read it out loud. Or use a built-in ‘Read Aloud’ function on your laptop. Does it flow well? Did YOU switch off halfway through?!
You may need to go back to the refining stage to get it just right. It can help to think of an actual person that would be part of your ideal audience – imagine you’re writing it to them. This way, your copy will sound more human and conversational.
You may have got to the end of these tips and still find writing a struggle. If that’s the case, hand it over to someone who enjoys writing and can do it well (hello!)
And if you didn’t get to the end, hopefully you’re practising on Twitter… like I suggested at the beginning 😉