How to make your writing slimmer

Many of us are trying to lose the flab after Christmas – but have you ever thought of applying that to your writing?

There’s no excuse for flabby writing. Unnecessary words can annoy your reader by increasing the time they need to spend reading your document or email.

Fortunately, it’s very easy to tighten it up and make it more succinct.

Here are six ways to do exactly that.

1.      Think of ways to say the same thing in fewer words. In particular, look out for adverbs (these often end in -ly) . So instead of “I walked hurriedly to work” you could say “I hurried to work”.   This makes your copy punchier and shorter.

2.      Look out for examples of tautology – where you say the same thing twice. For example, “the iPhone was first invented 10 years ago”.  You can only ever invent something once, so “first” is redundant here.

3.      Run a quick search on your document for words like “just” and “actually”. These can usually be removed without actually losing any meaning. Or they can be removed without losing any meaning. See what I did there?

4.      Many people add extra words to make a phrase sound more important. For instance, “We will conduct an investigation into that” uses more words than necessary. “We will investigate that” is simpler and more direct.

5.      Don’t make verbs longer than they need to be. You can “print” a document. You don’t need to print it out or print it off.

6.      Don’t repeat yourself! If you’re quoting someone, avoid introducing the quote by saying what is in the quote. An example of what NOT to do is:

Simon had a brilliant idea while he was driving his car. “I was driving my car when I came up with an idea that I immediately realised had the potential to become a best seller,” he says.

Instead write something like this:

Simon had a brilliant idea while he was driving his car. “I immediately realised it had the potential to become a best seller,” he says.

Easy isn't? This type of flab-fighting is certainly less painful than hours at the gym or weeks counting calories.