How to write succinctly
As a writer, you enjoy writing.
Just as every chef enjoys cooking! But imagine if the chef cooked and cooked and cooked and then ate and ate and ate. The chef would become fat!
And so it is with your writing.
Don't get fat.
Write only what is needed.
Use Writing Tools To Cull Your Words
HemingwayApp.com is a useful tool for checking whether you are writing succinctly.
It is not, however, perfect.
Use it as a guide to help you quickly identify problem areas.
Don't take all of its suggestions literally or you'll end up with a lack of rhythm and flow in your writing.
When you read a sentence out loud, if you run out of breath, then your sentence is too long.
Avoid Lazy Words & Filler Content
There can be a temptation for a writer to add filler words and extra content in order to receive more money or simply to reach the minimum word count.
Avoid the temptation because filler content is not good for the reader and so it won't be good for you either.
Avoid Lazy Words
These include - a lot, things, stuff, some, something, lots, however, moreover, whatsoever, got and more.
Any kind of generic word that broadly describes something is filler.
Readers want concise, authoritative content. Not waffle.
Use a thesaurus to switch out lazy words with new words. Get specific.
There are plenty of alternatives for “a lot” in the Thesaurus: https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/a%20lot
Using alternative words gives your writing far more authority and it's easy to fix by using a thesaurus.
Imagine if a scientist wrote that she had studied Things ... it doesn't have quite the same sense of authority as being highly specific!
- Simple article that points out a small handful of weak words. Avoid them.
- Neil provides alternatives to the weak words. Print out the checklists if you're having trouble with this issue.
- Specific to the word "very" and repeated from Neil's article.
- A good list of words to avoid and with useful examples. Read this article twice.
- More weak words but with redundancy examples.
- Some fun examples in here.
- It bears repeating. Learn which words are weak. Don't use them.
- Point 5 is most relevant to this topic of weak words, but it's good to get a sense of the other ideas too.
- Infographic for those of us who prefer to learn with visuals.
- More words to remove and with a how-to shortcut that could be useful for you.
- These examples are slightly more technical, but still relevant. Suitable for more advanced writers.
Avoid Too Many Transition Phrases
It's good to help the reader get to the next section of text, but don't overdo it.
For example, "Read on to learn more" is a joining phrase. It's useful once, but not four times.
More transition words that you can use, but don't overdo it:
And, in addition to, furthermore, moreover, besides, than, too, also, both-and, another, equally important, first, second, etc., again, further, last, finally, not only-but also, as well as, in the second place, next, likewise, similarly, in fact, as a result, consequently, in the same way, for example, for instance,
Avoid Generic Content with Broadly Sweeping Generalisations
Many writers write lots of words and then get a job. But not all writers can write, as people well know. So it's better if you can learn to write and then you might be able to get a job.
Okay. So that's all very general. And it's boring.
And it's filler content that needs to be deleted from your article.
Whereas, 54% of Oxford graduates with English Literature degrees are hired as journalists in the online marketing field.
Learn How To Write Succinctly
- Tips 2 and 4 are good ideas.
- If you're serious about a long-term career as a writer then you should absolutely have already read Strunk & White's book. Mandatory reading for all writers, everywhere.
- Good advice to focus your attention on meaningful words, rather than on removing filler words. You'll end up with a much better article for the reader.
- Do not indulge in fancy words. It doesn't impress anyone, particularly on the Internet. Readers want information quickly.
- Learn about the Flesch-Kincaid score. Someone must have developed a plugin for this to add to Google Docs?
- Whilst this example uses email as the template the ideas still apply to articles. Be succinct and plan your work for your audience before you start writing.
- This article is a little more technical in natures, but it's a good primer if you'd like to really learn how to become more concise with your writing.
- Definitely use active verbs. The HemingwayApp will point this out too. But, ignore that sections regarding length of sentences and paragraphs. That doesn't apply for web writing.
- Very good checklist. Print it out and compare with your articles every time, before you submit for review.
- There's some very specific advice in this article about words to use and not to use. You'll note that by now some of the ideas are being repeated in the reading list. Keep reading so the ideas keep repeating and you embed these ideas in your memory.