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8 Ways to Keep Copy Short and Sweet to Make an Impact

There’s a reason for the cliché “short and sweet.” People like it when you get to the point.

And since our attention span is about on par with a goldfish (meaning we both lose interest after about 8 seconds), it’s essential to get in, say your thing and get out – stat! A study published by the Nielson Norman Group found that the average consumer only reads between 20 to 28% of the words on a website during a typical visit.

Write Short. Learn How.

Here are 8 of our favorite strategies to help you stay concise:

Keep it simple

“Use” words, don’t “utilize” them. At Aha Media, we aim to craft copy at an 8th grade reading level. We believe people shouldn’t have to work hard to read what we have to say. 

Watch your opening

Those 3 (or more!) lines of superfluous throat-clearing writers like to include in the opening paragraph? You can usually delete them without sabotaging your missive.

Mind your closing

The last graph, too, is prone to excess verbiage. Provide readers with a (short) call to action. The shorter the message, the easier it will be for them to remember it – and act accordingly.

Trim the fat

Delete words like “really,” “very” and “that” whenever possible. For example:

  • Wordy: The doctor said that it’s very important to avoid foods that contain saturated fat because they can really contribute to weight gain.
  • Just right: Researchers learned eating saturated fat can contribute to weight gain. 

Activate your verbs

Passive voice is the enemy of great writing – and it takes up space. “The very first fecal transplant was performed by Dr. Smith,” vs. “Dr. Smith performed the first fecal transplant.” The latter reads better and is less wordy.

Ditch unnecessary descriptors

Adjectives and adverbs can sometimes clarify your writing, but in most cases, they muddy the water. Avoid them in favor of action words. So if you have a choice between, “He closed the door firmly,” and “He slammed the door,” choose the latter.

Use short phrases

Reduce words by modifying these phrases:

  • “In order to” = “to”
  • “One of the” = “a”
  • “The majority of” = “most”
  • Eliminate “there is” and “there are”

Get creative

You don’t always have to use words to make a point. Often, a new paragraph, set of bullet points, numbered list or simple exclamation point conveys your message more effectively. 

Snap to It!

Story economy is important. People are busy. They’re distracted. They have laundry to do, dinner to cook, kids to pick up. You have a better chance of captivating your audience with your message if you’re clear and concise.

Learn to read your work with a critical eye. Are your sentences short and tight? Did you use unnecessary adjectives? Did you go off on a tangent to get a laugh? Identify the shortcomings, trim down – and make a bigger impact.

Here are more ways to create clear, readable copy:

10 Steps to Creating Valuable Content Checklist

Understand the 2 Parts of Reading Comprehension

What Is Conversational Writing? And How to Get It At Your Organization

What’s a Language Board? Does It Matter?

 

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About Amy Paturel

Amy Paturel

Amy is an award-winning health journalist and blogger whose work frequently appears in Prevention, AARP, Parents and SKY Magazine, as well as custom publications and websites including Neurology Now, WebMD and BabyCenter.com. A passionate essayist, Amy also teaches personal essay writing to stude... More >