In light of the fact that an appreciable number of us utilise excessive words in our content, it is incumbent upon us to take action to edit our content as a means of facilitating a better experience for our users.
Or, to put it more simply:
Because many of us use too many words in our copywriting we should edit it to help our users.
Or maybe just:
We use too many words. We should use fewer.
Unless we’re reading for pleasure, we tend to scan web pages. One study found that users read an average of 20% of the words on a page. Put another way that’s roughly one sentence in every five, so it’s vital we make every word count.
Here are my favourite tips for slimming down your content:
Tip 1: Ditch the jargon
Take a leaf out of the GOV.UK book and write in plain English. The only thing that should be ‘delivered’ are pizzas and with a bit of luck we should only be ‘going forward’ if we’re on the train.
Tip 2: Lose the tired language
Find alternatives to the cliched phrases I used at the start of this post. The University of Texas’ collection of pet peeves and this list of plain text substitutions for wordy phrases are both great resources.
Tip 3: Remember the power of words
Trimming your content shouldn’t be a negative experience. Well-written headlines can gain users’ attention more effectively than images (just remember to use this power for good- BBC News does headlines well without resorting to clickbait).
Tip 4: Get inspired
Justin Jackson’s simple page proves you don’t need fancy bells and whistles if you write well. David Ogilvy’s ‘How To Write’ memo is a concise guide to good writing. Roy Peter Clark has written some excellent practical guides to writing well. His latest, ‘How To Write Short’, looks at writing in the internet age. Ginny Redish’s ‘Letting Go Of The Words’ and Strunk and White’s classic ‘The Elements Of Style’ also come highly recommended.