How to Get Your Content Read, Part I: Conciseness

The internet has shortened the average attention span of its users, meaning you have only a few moments to capture a prospect's attention before they click the BACK button.

In a previous post, we explained the importance of using information to attract new customers to your website, and we described a few tips for creating useful content. Unfortunately, the most valuable information in the world is ineffective if you bog down your content with too many words.

In this first installment of "How to Get Your Content Read", we review an old rule from English class that is more relevant today than ever before: conciseness.

What Does 'Concise' Mean?

Remember in English class when your teacher handed your essay back with all those red slashes through certain words, phrases, and sometimes whole sentences? Your teacher was attempting to make your writing more concise by eliminating unnecessary words and rearranging sentences.

The goal of concise writing is to choose only words and phrases that accomplish a specific task.

According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab section on conciseness, you should treat each word like an employee:

"Words and phrases should be deliberately chosen for the work they are doing. Like bad employees, words that don't accomplish enough should be fired."

By eliminating unnecessary words and phrases, you strengthen your writing, making it easier for prospects to digest.

Get your point across quickly and clearly, and you too can capture the fleeting attention of your targeted audience.

What Does 'Concise' Not Mean?

Conciseness is often confused with simplification. While making your writing more concise makes it clearer and easier to understand, you should never omit useful content for the sake of brevity.

In The Elements of Style, the classic reference for clear and concise writing, author William Strunk, Jr. says this about conciseness versus simplification:

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

Eliminating critical information from your content will leave your writing incomplete, and it will destroy the credibility you have achieved as a reliable source of information for your industry.

3 Tips for Concise Writing

The following conciseness tips will help strengthen your writing and clarify your arguments. 1. Swap vague, wordy phrases for specific words.

Wordy: Martin became aware of his need for a feeling of friendship. (11 words)

Concise: Martin discovered his need for companionship. (6 words)

2. Test the necessity of every word in a sentence.

Wordy: Because it is rich in vitamin C, scurvy grass helped some of the early explorers of the Arctic survive their long winter exiles in places like Novaya Zemlya and Spitsberger. (30 words)

Concise: Rich in vitamin C, scurvy grass helped some early Arctic explorers survive long winter exiles in places like Novaya Zemlya and Spitsberger. (22 words)

3. Combine sentences when possible.

Wordy: I turned 14-years-old. It was my birthday. I received a new fishing rod. I promptly dropped the fishing rod in the river. (24 words)

Concise: On my 14th birthday, I received a new fishing rod that I promptly dropped in the river. (17 words)

For more examples, check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab section on conciseness.

Find an Editor

These tips will help strengthen your content, making it more attractive to prospects. But spotting mistakes in your writing is difficult. Even professional writers need editors to help them clarify their writing and sharpen their message.

If you would like an editor to review your content before publishing it on your website, contact Avelient. We can help.

Written by Jackson Armstrong on May 6th, 2011

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