January 11, 2017
When you were requested at school to write an essay, you probably attempted at arguing with the teacher about how short it should actually be. Back then we thought, the shorter the easier.
What we didn’t know, of course, is that writing shorter texts is, in fact, more of a challenge than writing longer pieces. With fewer words, you must:
- convey the same message,
- present a structure,
- ensure it all makes sense and that no relevant information is left out.
You probably have heard a variation of:
“I would have written a shorter letter if I had had the time.”
It’s often connected to Mark Twain, but the origins of the saying date back to the 17th century and to French philosopher Blaise Pascal.
Regardless of its real origin, the truth contained in that sentence remains relevant. Particularly in a digital world, where people don’t actually read anymore – they simply scan.
So here are a few tips to help you make your writing more concise, simple, and thus, shorter.
Write in the present simple tense (“We are selling” -> “We sell”)
Use the active voice instead of the passive (“Made by us” -> “We make”)
Avoid the negative form (“It is not necessary” -> “It is unnecessary”)
When possible, use contractions (“We are” -> “We’re”)
Have one thought per sentence
Cut! Cut! Cut! Keep only the relevant information
If writing for the web, use links instead of explanations.
Another example of a misquoted literary genius is the six-word essay wrongfully attributed to Hemingway. It shows us how simple and short a story can be:
“For sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”
What else do you really need to know?