According to Stephen King, the secret to successful writing is to “take out the bad parts. " Sounds straightforward, doesn't it? But many marketers and writers confuse brevity with concision. They think the mark of good writing is that it's “short and sweet. " That's not it at all.
How many times have you heard marketing pundits praise writing that's “short and to the point?" While that's often a good standard, it can be dangerous if carried to the extreme.
Why? Because it's not about the quantity of words, it's about the quality of your word choices. Long copy, short copy. It doesn't matter. A recent Marketing Sherpa study showed how one ezine publisher signed up subscribers by the tens of thousands for their latest newsletter with a 945-word offer letter! Almost a thousand words! Long by almost every standard, their letter generated a whopping 12.5% response rate.
How did they do it? For starters, they didn't confuse brevity with concision.
Brevity means being short, or brief.
Concision means packing more power per every square inch of copy, or expressing a great deal in few words. It means using passionate, focused, purposeful words. Put plainly, concision means you eliminate unnecessary words while still communicating your point and achieving your desired results. If it takes you a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand words to make your point concisely, so be it.
And that's the tricky part. Most marketers and writers are adept at ensuring reader comprehension. But in their zeal for brevity, they cut out the part of the message most likely to convert readers into customers. They eliminate the parts which will result in the desired action or effect.
Here's the rub: In order to be concise, you've got to “take out the bad parts. " You've got to say everything that needs to be said, but you've also got to train yourself to be a ruthless editor.
What does a ruthless editor do?
- Uses one word instead of two wherever possible. A wanderer isn't “without aim;" he's “aimless. " Handwriting isn't “difficult to read;" it's “illegible. "
- Eliminates most adverbs. Words like “literally, " “really, " “very, " “actually, " and “extremely" are unnecessary clutter more often than not.
- Makes the reading easy without being lame. This means having good transitions, using elements like story, metaphor, and good illustrations, and creating a helpful structure using bullet points and signposts.
A freelance copywriter and editor, Kristen Michaelis publishes the popular monthly e-zine The Wonderworking Minute . Each edition of The Wonderworking Minute contains valuable hints and tips for helping you become a better marketer, communicator, and person. Sign up today for your free subscription to the e-zine and receive a FREE copy of her report “How To Gain And Keep Clients Through Strategic Partnering. ” She and her husband Steve have partnered to create Wonderworking Words , a freelance copywriting services company. For more articles and tips like this one, check out The Wonderworking Words Blog .