Spring has sprung and it’s time to get rid of the clutter — and not just around the house, but in your writing too. Eliminating unnecessary, clunky words and phrases will help you produce better content that’s more clean, clear, and concise. That’s important because you don’t want to obscure your message with complicated, excessively wordy copy, which is both ineffective and can turn readers off.
To help you avoid that fate, we’ve put together some tips to keep in mind when you’re writing and editing.
Outline your content.
Drafting an outline of what you’re going to write before you start writing will help you organize your ideas and prevent you from going off on a tangent. Give each section a heading and a brief description, and then all you’ll have to do is fill in the blanks. With a very clear picture of what you’re going to write, you won’t be tempted to stray from the plan.
Cut out the jargon.
Readers hate jargon. It can confuse and alienate them. If you think it will make you sound smarter, just remember that there’s no point to it if no one reads your content. Replace technical terms, industry buzzwords, and unfamiliar words with words that are simpler and easier to understand. It’s not about dumbing your content down, it’s about making yourself understood.
Keep it simple and to the point.
Successful content is straightforward, easy to comprehend, and succinct. Don’t try to communicate too many ideas at once, or wander too much before you make the necessary points. If you take too long to identify the main thrust of what you’re writing, readers will turn away, thinking they’re not going to find the information they want. Stick to dividing up your copy, starting with an introduction (your thesis statement). Then follow that with examples or evidence, and finally, wrap things up with a summary or conclusion. It’s probably the format you learned in school, and while simple, it’s also effective.
Cut long sentences in two.
Long sentences that contain several ideas can fail to convey important information. That’s because the reader has to absorb them all at once without a break, which is easier said than done. Often breaking up sentences is as simple as putting a period where you naturally pause. Not sure where to start? If you’ve got a comma-heavy sentence (and it’s not a list), you’ve probably just found a great candidate.
Remove excessive verbiage.
The word verbiage comes from the Middle French verbier, meaning “to chatter.” It just means you’ve got a lot of unnecessary and complicated words that don’t mean much. So get the garden shears out and start trimming. Do you really need every word? If not, then cut out the fluff.
Contractions make your writing much friendlier and more personable. When you use them, you’re also saving space and dropping the sort of formality that can put readers off.
Remove extra punctuation.
When it’s used correctly, punctuation can add depth and subtlety to your content. It can also give it a natural rhythm, so it’s easy to read. But if your writing is littered with colons, semicolons, ellipses, and brackets, it won’t flow well. Again, this is a good opportunity to see if the sentences would work better if they were broken up.
Use the active voice.
Using the passive voice in your content isn’t necessarily wrong, but it lacks the persuasive power of the active voice. You want to get your ideas across strongly, clearly, and concisely, not in a wishy-washy way. The active voice (“the Acrolinx Team wrote this post” not “this post was written by the Acrolinx team”) will get your point across more directly, so use it when you can.
When you’re in the middle of writing content, it can be easy to repeat a word or an idea without realizing it. Check if you’re using the same word twice in a sentence or rephrasing the same idea further down the page. Reading your copy out loud will help identify repetitions and eliminate redundancies. If you’ve already said it once, you probably don’t need to say it again.
Have someone else proofread.
When you’re editing your own work, you often read what you expect to see, not what’s actually there. It’s very easy to miss typos and grammar mistakes, so don’t be afraid to ask someone to be a second set of eyes. They might find things you’ve missed, and provide valuable suggestions to tighten up your copy. Better yet, get Acrolinx to do the job for you.
Start tidying up your content.
Creating great content is about crafting words carefully and then editing aggressively. Sometimes you might have to be ruthless with the red pen, but if you take these tips on board and cut out what’s not needed, your readers will thank you in the end.