Do you know how to sharpen your writing, make it crisp, focused and to the point?
In journalism, we talk about ‘tightening-up copy’ or making it ‘punchy’.
Copy that is ‘wordy’ or ‘flabby’ can quickly lose readers’ interest.
And there are a few easy ways to make sure that your writing is concise.
First is to look for unnecessary words such as ‘actually’ and ‘really’. Or instances when you can use one word instead of three such as ‘in order to’ instead of ‘to’.
I’m working on a big editing project at the moment, it’s several thousand words long and needs cutting back.
The initial sweep through will inevitably pick up a good handful of unnecessary words that can easily be cut out.
They can creep in when you are writing copy from scratch but as long as you know how to spot them when you review your copy it doesn’t matter.
It is what first drafts are for, getting ideas and thoughts down in a basic structure without worrying too much about the nitty-gritty technical detail.
Edit and refine
First drafts are are a starting point, they are there to be edited, refined and polished.
When you are writing, you can get copy-blind and not see what is glaringly obvious to someone reading with a fresh pair of eyes.
Grammarly is a great tool for helping to spot words like these.
Another key technique to make your copy pack a punch is to make sure you use active rather than passive tense.
Writing with a passive tense usually requires more words. An active tense is more direct and to the point.
It is easy to slip into using a passive tense, particularly when you are working through your thoughts as you write. Or if you aren’t 100% sure about what you are trying to say or how you want to say it.
Grammarly also picks up on passive tense misuse but that’s an advanced feature which you have to pay for.
So if you are only using the free version, it’s good to be able to spot where you could be more direct in what you are saying.
One final technique is to make sure you use simple language.
Using big, complicated words doesn’t necessarily make you sound more authoritative.
The easier your copy is to read and understand the better.
One easy trick is to think about how you would relay the same details to someone if you were talking to them face to face.
If it’s a word you wouldn’t use when speaking to a friend or colleague, don’t put it in your copy.
A couple of examples are using ‘commence’ instead of ‘start’ or ‘utilise’ instead of ‘use’.
Not only are these words shorter but they make your writing sound human, which is far more engaging.
What are your top tips for making your writing clearer and more concise?
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