June 24, 2019 Less is more: How to write succinctly

By Nick Boylan

man typing on laptop

In our data-driven, fast-paced world, attention spans are incredibly low – lower than that of a goldfish. To grab and maintain your reader’s attention, your copy needs to be short, punchy and easily understood. That’s what makes succinct copywriting a sought-after skill.

Your audience should be able to identify your product or service, its benefits and any action they need to take within the first few sentences of your copy. By incorporating a “less is more” mindset, you allow your reader to get to the point, without the fluff.

Succinct copy is built for the scan-reading climate of the digital age, helping you better connect with your ideal customers and share your business values.

There are some easy techniques you can use to help cut down your word count and streamline your copy.

1. Use social media as practise

Practising your writing by crafting clever social media captions can help make your writing more succinct. Twitter currently enforces a 280-character limit, encouraging millions of users to keep it short-and-sweet. Some of the best journalists and digital marketers are succinct and effective storytellers, using Twitter captions to their advantage for both news and opinions pieces.

Similarly, when texting a friend, your aim is to get to the heart of the matter straight away. You’ll achieve this by using short and sharp copy in your text, dispensing with any extraneous details. Adopting a similar approach for your business copy will make it more interesting and engaging, helping to maintain your reader’s attention for longer.

2. Plan ahead

By having a plan, you’re more likely to stick to a tight schedule and simplify your copy. If you spend a little bit of extra time planning what you really want to say, you can break your larger ideas into subheadings, paragraphs and individual sentences.

When you simply dive into content writing without a plan, you may find yourself falling into bad writing habits, like using jargon or relying on extra information to get your point across. With a plan in place, your original points can take centre stage and help your copy sing.

3. A+B = C: Use formula to structure your copy

Using paragraph formulas can also help keep your writing more concise. A formula such as Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) is just one of the many that can help smooth out your paragraphs and help your thoughts flow more succinctly.

For example:

Problem: “When do you have time to read long legal documents?”

Agitate: “These long legal documents are important, but you can’t devote enough time to read them without feeling annoyed, confused or angry.”Solve: “If this happens to you regularly, contact an insurance broker to help you understand these documents.”

4. Grammar tips and tricks

Adhering to grammar rules is essential when writing succinct and engaging copy:

  • Active versus passive: Using a passive voice and passive verbs (things that ‘have been’ or ‘will be’) quite often create longer sentences. Utilising more active words (things that people ‘are doing’) helps to tighten up the sentence.

For example:

Passive: “The politician was assaulted by Egg Boy”

Active: “Egg Boy assaulted the politician”

  • Keeping adverbs to a minimum: These amplifiers or modifiers add unnecessary words to your copy, making them prime candidates to be cut when editing.

Remove excess adjectives: Making your writing more visual or descriptive can add life to your writing, but they can also inflate your sentences. Remove any unnecessary adjectives to keep your sentences flowing.

5. Edit, then edit again

A comprehensive edit is the simplest but most effective way of keeping your copy short and snappy. Be on the lookout for jargon, unnecessary words and repeated ideas or phrases – these culprits will only add excessive length to your copy.

When reviewing your content, look for ways to cut your sentences in half. Ask yourself: “Could I tell this story with less words?”. Always seek clarity over cleverness.

6. Get a helping hand

At Avion Communications, we know that snappy copy allows you to hook and convert your readers. So, if you want to simplify your copy and engage your audience, get in touch with our Melbourne copywriters today.