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The Art of Brevity

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Writers: Master the Art of Brevity and Satisfy Readers
By Melinda Copp

Time is precious, and readers need a reason to keep reading—it’s a fact of life these days when information is available almost instantaneously. Especially in the Internet, you must get to the point right away, as studies have shown that on average you've only got nine seconds to make an impression and hook a reader before he or she clicks away. Readers want to know why they should bother reading the documents you produce, and they don’t want to wade through dense, unclear prose, which is why writers can make their work more successful by learning the art of brevity.  

To ensure your intended message comes across clearly and quickly, consider the following strategies.

1. Know Your Reader
Knowing your intended reader is essential for success, no matter what you’re writing. But in the context of brevity, knowing what your reader needs to gain from your document allows you to get straight to the point. So consider: what does your reader want? What you’re your reader need? And how can you communicate that right away? Always consider the reader first and then use that knowledge to convey your written document’s purpose in a way that hooks the reader immediately—then you can eliminate everything that isn’t critical.

2. Brevity Doesn’t Mean Your Ideas should be Under-Developed
While many of the clients and readers you’re writing for will like shorter documents, shorter isn’t always considered better. No matter what you’re writing, you have to make your points effectively. So you can’t just eliminate content for the sake of keeping it short. The key is to say what you mean in as few words as possible, whether you're writing a 100,000-word novel or a 300-word blog post.
Remember, too, that brief and clear are not necessarily the same thing. A piece of text can be brief, while not clear at all. As always, choose all your words carefully and do enough research to ensure that you can communicate the most important points in a concise way.

3. Work within Your Word Count
An important factor to consider in this discussion is word count. If you’re writing an assignment, you may have a word count guideline that you need to meet. In this case, the challenge is often to keep your information concise so that you don’t exceed your limit. Make sure all the content is relevant. Once again, this means that you'll need to look at the project with an objective eye and cut any information that doesn't belong, even when it might be part of an otherwise beautifully written sentence. But you shouldn’t write less than the required amount, either.

For example, when consultants are contracted to carry out research and produce the necessary reports, readers often prefer to see longer, more developed works submitted to them. As well, when a school tutor asks for a 500-word essay, they really mean it and you won’t get away with anything less. Of course, that goes for publishers as well. Most have minimum word requirements that they expect any submission to follow. Not hitting the prescribed amount usually means that your text may be discarded.

4. Copyedit for Conciseness
Another way to ensure that everything you write is brief is to use language effectively by conveying your meaning with as few words as possible. Where brevity is concerned, you should go back over your text to look for sentences that can be reworked in a more concise way. For example, adverbs and passive verbs often add unnecessary wordiness. Remember that unnecessary words and phrases will only turn the reader off from the subject matter, and when that happens often enough, they'll turn away from the piece altogether.

Brevity and Clarity in Your Writing
In their work and private lives, people are pressed for time and if you can’t give them a reason to keep reading right away, then they won’t. When you use these strategies, you can ensure that your written works are as clear and brief as possible, and that your readers will stick with you to the end.

About the Author:

Melinda Copp is a writing coach, ghostwriter, and book editor who specializes in helping aspiring authors reach their writing goals. Sign up for her free e-zine at www.FINALLYwriteabook.com, and get a free special report!

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