In the workplace, clear and to-the-point writing is prized—and this is becoming increasingly true as we spend more and more time reading emails and web content. Complex, wordy descriptions can be confusing, dull, or, worse, misleading. More value lies in straightforward, succinct writing.

One common presumption I find among professionals is the idea that brevity is the goal. Keeping a piece of writing under so many words means that it’s concise, right? Well … that’s not always true. For example, a brief set of instructions with limited explanation may be just as confusing (and therefore unsuccessful) as rambling, verbose instructions.

Clean, concise writing isn’t always short in length; it may contain a tremendous amount of detail. But, no matter the length, it presents the information clearly without any unnecessary words and unrelated information or ideas. This is the key—and the challenge.

Tips for Concise Writing Tips to Help You Write More Concisely

Tip #1: Articulate your specific goals for the finished project before writing. Namely: 
  • Audience: Who do you want to reach? What are they seeking from this information? Put yourself in your audience’s shoes when selecting and organizing the information, as well as how you’ll write about it.
  • Purpose: What exactly do you want your reader to take away from the content you’re crafting? What do you want them to do, think, or say after reading your writing? Each sentence help achieve these goals.
  • Format: Will this writing be published on the web? In print? Is it a website, article, presentation, etc.? Craft writing to succeed for the specific format.

A detailed understanding of your goals will help you to focus on only what’s needed—and nothing more.

Tip #2: Use the active voice. Get in the habit of structuring sentences around a strong, precise verb to write more directly and persuasively. The passive voice may be the better option in some cases, but not many (this is one of the best explanations I’ve found on these few exceptions). 
 
Tip #3: Pay close attention to word choice and eliminate any needless words or phrases. For example:
  • In fact/ In actual fact: Omit entirely
  • At the time that/ At the time when: Use “when”
  • Inasmuch as: Use “because” or “since”
  • In the process of: Omit entirely
  • Due to: Use “because”
  • Whether or not: Use “whether” only
Tip #4: Revisit your writer later to boil things down further. It’s vital to take a break, especially if you’re working very closely on the project or immersed in the subject. Separate yourself for a bit, and when you return, carefully consider what information is redundant or not entirely necessary.      
 
Tip #5: Seek an outside perspective. It can be very difficult to select the right information when you work closely with it every day—and all the information holds importance. Enlist help from a new pair of eyes—either a colleague who has enough distance from the information or a professional writer or editor. Explain your goals and ask him or her to evaluate the information, cut what’s unnecessary, and flag areas that need additional explanation or detail. 
 
Do you value concise writing at work? Do your colleagues and supervisors? Please share your other tips and strategies for streamlining your writing. 

 

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