4 Easy Tips For Clear and Concise Content Writing
Professional content writing includes a select few tenets that all writers should adhere to – such as "never miss a deadline" or "avoid massive blocks of plaintext". Perhaps one of the most ambiguous of these rules, however, is "always keep your writing tight". What does that mean, and most importantly, how do you accomplish it?
The former is the easy part; we want our writing to be clean, clear, and to the point. Most often, professional content writing isn't the time to waffle on about every thought that comes to mind as you're writing. Your readers are reading your digital content for a particular reason, so stay on point.
Now that we know the 'what,' let's turn our attention to the 'how' – and that's where the fun begins. The rest of this post is designed to help content writers and businesses keep their publications as clear and tight as possible; remember, in our business, words are money!
Cut Down "Of"
After years of editing and trimming articles for a professional writing service, I can confidently say that most excess writing is tied to the word 'of'. Take a look at the examples below.
Visting in the month of May is the most fun. (10 words)
The fields of green are stunning at sunset. (8 words)
Hikers of many different ability levels will appreciate this trail. (10 words)
These sentences are entirely correct grammatically speaking. However, they're not the most succinct method to convey the information. Let's remove the 'of' from each sentence:
Visiting in May is the most fun. (7 words)
The green fields are stunning at sunset. (7 words)
New and experienced hikers will appreciate this trail. (8 words)
See how removing 'of' from your descriptors tightens up the sentence for easier reading and comprehension? This is an easy and quick method to give your digital content a polish and, with practice, this method will become part of your writing routine.
Rein In The Run-On Sentences
Run-on sentences are the result of stringing several standalone ideas into a single sentence by copiously using 'and'. Take a look at the example sentence below to see it in action.
This tent has so many features and my favorite ones are plenty of storage, a lantern loop, and a very spacious vestibule to keep all your gear stowed, and the tent also has an optional awning. (36 words)
That one sentence is almost an entire paragraph on its own! This word landslide crams way too many thoughts and ideas into one sentence, making it hard for the reader to follow. Instead, let's try breaking up the ideas into their own sentences.
This tent includes many features. My favorites are the storage space, lantern loop, and a spacious vestibule. An optional awning is also available. (23 words)
Simply axing all the transition words and replacing them with periods yields a much more clear, tighter, and easy to read section of text. Additionally, this method will work every time. If you ever suspect that your sentence is too long, or chunky, just break it into two separate sentences and you'll be pleased with the result.
Passive vs. Active
Many of us naturally write in the passive voice, where we place the verb ahead of the subject.
The tent was set up by the guide. (8 words)
A trip was booked by the travel agent. (8 words)
Instead, move the two subjects (the guide and travel agent) to the front of the sentence. Doing so yields the active voice.
The guide set up the tent. (6 words)
The travel agent booked a trip. (6 words)
Crystal clear and fewer words, just what content writers should be looking for! While our in-depth passive vs. active discussion reveals some special cases, know that you'll never go wrong by using the active voice for all of your publications.
Be Mindful of Repetition
Let's zoom out from the individual sentences for our last point, and take a look at your content as a whole. From this bird's eye view, scan your work for information that shows up in more than one place. To help get the ball rolling, consider these questions:
Did I already cover this information to prove an earlier point?
Is every paragraph unique, or are some simply recapping previous points?
Have I inflated similar or identical information to prop up multiple sections of my content?
These are just examples, but you get the idea. Discussing the same points, features, or information more than once will quickly lead to large blocks of redundant text; perhaps hundreds of words' worth.
In this case, the solution isn't as easy as deleting redundant text en-masse – as that leads to a nightmare of reorganizing your entire piece to re-establish flow and cohesion. Instead, content writers must nip this one in the bud from the beginning.
Before you dive into writing, take the time to map out your ideas and where each piece of information fits into your masterpiece. In this barebones form, any repetition will immediately stand out instead of hiding amongst pages of content. Once you've truly ironed out your ideas and the point(s) you want to make, a step by step roadmap – without redundancy – will take shape
Bringing it Together
There we have it. Several years of editing for a professional writing service taught me these four tips for keeping content clean and concise.
'Of' is an often overused function word, keep it minimal and directly link modifiers to their subject (use "a green field" as opposed to "a field of green")
Divide run-on sentences into standalone statements separated by a period.
Try to use the active voice as much as possible.
Cut out repetition by mapping out your content before writing.
If you keep these four points in mind for all your content writing, you'll soon develop a much more concise method of storytelling. But it takes practice and plenty of editing! So, keep writing, get comfortable with these methods – perhaps develop a few of your own on the way – and publish your beautifully clear content for the world to see!