consultant | speaker | brand manager

The Art of Condensing: Making Your Writing Short and Sweet

If you know me personally, you’ll know I babble.  I can’t help it.  My other half jokes that he knows something is wrong if I’m NOT babbling.

Babbling has a time and a place.  I’ve always loved writing, and my enjoyment of babbling works well with freelance writing.  I don’t mind doing research on subjects I don’t know about as long as I can write lengthy pieces about them later on.  Then I began the merge to social media.

That’s where the babbling had to stop.  While you can write a novella on Facebook, when you’re posting for a business most people do not want to read a novel.  When I first picked up Twitter – talk about hard.  I would type out what I thought was a short tweet only to find it about 250-400 characters long.  I would knock off a sentence or two, sure that it would work and I would be down to about 160-180 characters.  Oh the frustration.  I can now write a tweet without thinking, 120 characters?  That’s excess!

We’re in a world that’s always moving.  People are online and have multiple tabs open.  They’re being pinged by instant messages, and their streams are always moving.  If you want someone to read your stuff it needs to be vibrant and to the point.  This goes for more than social media.  If you’re looking to network, you’re going to be sending emails from time to time.  Trust me – there are plenty of emails that get sent straight to the trash.  Many of us get over 100 emails a day, so if you want your stuff read -make it worthwhile!

Keep Calm and Stop Talking!

Do: Make sure to use good grammar and use spell check!
There’s a reason that teachers spend so much time attempting to teach us proper grammar.  To be professional, you need to sound professional.   If I see multiple spelling errors in someone’s pitch to me there’s a good chance I’m not going to bother.

Trying to network is not like trying to get the attention of someone on Craigslist.  I do not want to be shouted at or wonder why on Earth you are so excited over some very trivial development.  Contain yourself – if what you are writing about is truly that exciting then you will get a response without all the exclamation points.

Do: Be Brief.
My eyes glaze over when I see huge walls of text.  Depending on what you’re composing I’m sure your goal is not to make eyes glaze over.   Bullet Points with good keywords are the perfect thing to help not overload an email (or resume!).

Don’t: Write more than a page.
People skim. It’s a cold hard fact these days, and if you want someone to read your stuff you need to keep it short and sweet.  If I have to click “Read More” or scroll down I’ll probably get bored and move on.  Really proofread what you wrote – there’s probably a lot you can cut out without losing the intent of your content.

Do: If it’s longer than a sentence, make it a narrative.
Basically tell a story.  Everything has a beginning, middle and an end.  If you’re just writing a tweet this isn’t necessary, but if you’re writing an email or a blog post give a flow to it so that it’s easy (and enjoyable) to read.

Don’t: Overuse abbreviations.
Keep it real.  If you can’t write out a tweet without abbreviating 8 different words you need to figure out what you’re trying to say in a different manner.  I’m not telling you to type out “retweet”, but if you get to the point where you’re abbreviating words like “want” into “wnt” you have a problem.

Do: When you can, be visual!
A picture is worth a thousand words – or so they say.  Pictures are well received but make sure you place them well and they’re not just thrown in because you think it looks cool.

Don’t: If you are writing an email – don’t forget the importance of the subject line and CC’s!
All rules apply here.  Keep your subject short and sweet, no all caps, and make sure that it makes sense.  Almost like a mini tweet if you will.  Give enough information to make them want to open it but don’t overdo it.  If you’re replying to an email – for the love of all things sane – do not reply all unless it is totally necessary.

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