Too much waffle? Here’s how to write clearly and concisely
There’s no magic in learning how to write clearly and concisely. But there are a few tricks involved.
There’s a real benefit to being able to write clearly and concisely – it can supercharge your other skills. If you’re able to get your point across and make it easily understood, you will appear more confident, authoritative, and even more persuasive.
Interested? Here’s where you begin…
How to make your writing more refined
Coco Chanel famously said, “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”. It’s an analogy that’s perfect for decongesting stodgy copy.
That’s because the best thing to do before you hit publish or send to print is to take a good hard look at your writing and remove the things that aren’t necessary. This will make your writing flow and read more smoothly – ultimately, you need to take things away to get clear, concise copy.
And let’s be honest – we’ve all been there. Writing emails, presentations or webpages in a rush, against a deadline. You tap away, creating a stream of consciousness. You give it a quick proof to make sure it reads OK – you check that you got your apostrophes in the right place and make sure you haven’t got any typos. And then you save it and move on to the next thing.
Then one day you come back to it. Or worse still, someone else reads it. And you realise that your writing is horrifically rambling. Some of the sentences don’t make sense. The call to action isn’t clear; no wonder you didn’t get the result you needed.
Three easy ways to write concisely and clearly
If you know your writing is wordy how can you fix it?
Here are three easy things you can do:
- Cut out the waffle. Step away from the long phrases. Never use five words where one will do. Replace phrases such as “in order to”, with plain old simple “to”. Instead of “by way of introduction”, write “introducing”. Adding too many words won’t appear polite or refined. It will complicate and distract from your main message.
- Lose the big words. Unless you’re writing a QI appreciation blog, it’s unlikely you’ll need super-duper long words. Use simple English. Long words don’t make you look clever, but they do suggest you don’t care whether or not people understand you. And worse still, long words are easily misspelt which makes you look daft. Stay in touch with your reader and don’t give anyone a chance to doubt you – use simple, direct language.
- Basic punctuation. Use your full stop. Long sentences are prime fodder in creating wordy text. They go on and on, using a record number of commas and confusing everyone. Keep your sentences under control and stick to one or two ideas only. If you find yourself bringing in lots of commas, “ands”, and “buts” etc. it’s a good idea to take control and get out your full stops. Chop down those sentences – let your reader take a breather.
Another thing to help you write clearly and concisely
Here’s a bonus tip for you… download the Grammarly app to your computer. The free app is just fine (it’s what I use) and will call out any rambling sentences for you to examine. It can be a bit pernickety, so don’t feel you have to do everything it tells you. However, it’s a useful tool for anyone who writes.
If you found this post useful, you might get something from one of my other blog posts. How about my guide to using alt-texts? (It tells you how to make the images on your website SEO friendly and more accessible).