“Good writing is lean and confident.” (William Zinsser, author of 19 books, including the classic On Writing Well)
If you aspire to lean and confident writing (and who wouldn’t?), then you’ll make every effort to avoid populating your prose with superfluous words. Simply put, in the most effective writing or communication, the communicator makes every word communicate. One of the finest examples of such full-on communication is Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. In 272 masterful words, our 16th president…
- Redefines American ideals
- Repositions a bitter war
- Eulogizes the Union dead
- Dedicates a new national cemetery
As copywriters and content marketers, none of us will be called on to accomplish such lofty aims. Nevertheless, we should aim high, for that in itself has its own rewards. To quote advertising great Leo J. Burnett, “When you reach for the stars, you may not get one, but you won’t get a handful of mud either.”
For leaner, harder-working content, write less
French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal memorably wrote: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
It takes time to compose clear, concise, compelling content.
The good news is that there are proven guidelines you can follow to speed up the process of producing a polished final draft. Most of those guidelines can be found in the timeless classic, The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White. (If you don’t have a copy of this 85-page gem, stop what you’re doing and order a copy right now.) [Also recommended: Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes. Think of it as the Elements of Style for a content marketing age—Ed.]
Style element No. 17, found in chapter two of Elements, “Principles of Composition,” is this: Omit needless words.
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