Are your communications morbidly obese?

Much of the reason I’ve been sparsely populating this blog over the past week is that I’ve been laboring on a 10,000-word marketing opus for my day job.

That was about 7,000 words too many, and now it’s a process of “killing babies” until it gets there.

It doesn’t matter whether you write for a living every day or not; the fact is that everyone is a writer, and more so if you’re in marketing.

When you’re in high school, writing assignments are padded to reach a certain word count. After high school though, overly verbose writing is the hallmark of the lazy. George Orwell’s rule is, “If you can cut a word out, always cut it out.”

This goes for emails, blog posts, and especially ad copy: you can take the easy way out and write so much that you wind up diluting your original message, or you can spend time trimming fat and condensing it into something potent.

How do you know if your communication is overweight? I use these guidelines:

  1. Did you say everything you wanted to? Great, but that’s exactly twice as long as it should be.
  2. Think it should stay? Delete it first, and see if you miss it. Chances are, you won’t.
  3. Stop thinking about what you want to say, and start thinking about what you want to get across.

No one likes cutting up their own communication, it’s time-consuming and ego-deflating. But, much like sharpening a pencil (or losing 500 pounds), you won’t miss what you lose and you’ll be much happier with the result.

Published by

Brandon

Brandon's been bringing the pain via blog since '02. Word. Er... Press.

  • http://twitter.com/NicksTraffic Nick Stewart

    I’m reminded of the Mark Twain quote:
    Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

    The book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser has had a huge impact on my writing. He advocates slaying unnecessary words and recommends cutting most adverbs from your writing.