Although drummed into reporters and student journalists for decades, concise writing is still difficult to achieve. Multiple readability studies verify the mandate that shorter words and shorter sentences are easier to read and understand.
Use is better than utilize, for example. Give is easier to comprehend than contribute. Today’s readers are in a hurry, especially when consuming online copy. Only one of six adults read word-by-word online, according to Dejan Marketing Remarkably. You need to please those harried individuals, so don’t bog them down with excessive wording.
“How do people read online?’ asked Ann Wylie, popular writing workshop leader. “They don’t read, they skim. So write skimmable web copy.”
Two of the most successful ads from the past century contained Volkswagen headlines “Lemon” and “Think Small.” Short words can carry your meaning.
I add a third short rule for my newswriting classes: paragraphs.
Many students — exposed to high school and college literature teachers — think each paragraph needs to explore an entire topic before its conclusion.
When a graph gets near 10 lines in a newspaper column, it starts turning gray. One recent Associated Press sports story begins with three nine-line paragraphs, then continues with 14- and 12-line graphs. Copy ends with more respectable paragraph lengths of seven, eight and eight lines. This top-of-page story resembles a boring textbook.
Shorter paragraphs do another service for readers. They give a break to the eyes, with the indent at the start and white space in the final line.
Another common tip to improve writing is to avoid excessive wording. Eliminating excess words will cut the clutter in our prose. Those cropping up frequently include these boldfaced examples.
I hope my free gift of these various wordiness examples of redundant items will help and assist you in the near future so you can entirely eliminate such past practices.
Dr. Randy Hines teaches journalism at the University of North Georgia. He’s co-author of “The Writer’s Toolbox: Blueprints for Successful Communicators” (2019, Kendall Hunt). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.