Talk about concise writing – it does not get any briefer. Today I saw an ad that popped up to the right of a YouTube video I was watching.
It caught my eye because it was so concise. It read:
And the name of the product.
In the world of writing, this is your competition.
Who Has Time to Read?
I may have opinions about impatience over having to read anything that takes longer than five minutes. However, Twitter exists. Emoticons—that you don’t even have to read—abound. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and you can and do judge a book by its cover.
If you are going to or do write, you need to constantly remind yourself to use words as if they cost a lot of money. This is especially true for non-fiction writers. Your readers are looking for facts and information.
- They probably like graphs.
- They definitely like summaries at the end of each chapter to which they can refer if they don’t have time to re-read the whole thing.
- They prefer concise writing.
On the Other Hand
Brief can be boring. People don’t want to read dry, dense prose that sounds like a traffic report or a medical report. They may not want to read a lot, but they do want what they read to interest them.
You can find several ways to write efficiently and still provide interest.
This blog post focuses on eliminating unnecessary words.
Learn Ruthless Editing
Avoid redundancies. I’ll list a few examples.
Circle around: Only way you can circle.
Raise up: See above.
You might be surprised how many examples of this you can find even in so-called literary prose. They take up a lot of space. Readers may not stop and say, “Ah-ha, a redundancy,” but they’ll get bored.
Stephen King, for example, is considered to be a very good writer. Yet, in On Writing, he writes a hypothetical query letter as a model. In it, he writes, “I am a young writer of twenty-eight years.” He couldn’t be an old one.
Avoid repetition. We want to make sure what we write is accurate. As a result, we may repeat facts. If you noted that the capital of Pakistan is Karachi on page 45 of your manuscript, you don’t have to repeat this on page 83.
You’ll achieve your goal of concise writing when you root out repetition. Look relentlessly for those repetitions. You will find them.
In addition, if what you write requires you to frequently use acronyms or abbreviations, you can assume people know what AWOL and ESL mean, but more obscure terms should be spelled out once. After that, use the abbreviated forms, and, if you feel kind, have a glossary at the end of the book.
Unnecessary words and phrases
These are easy to find. People overuse “that.” Look at what you’ve written, and see how it reads without “that.”
Don’t use, “as a matter of fact,” “very often” (“often” is enough), “It so happened,” or “etcetera.” These are filler phrases. If you examine your manuscript, you’ll find a lot of them.
For the first draft, write, don’t edit. Don’t pare down your words until you’ve reached the revision stage. Then get ruthless.
You could come to enjoy it.