Concise Writing: Less is Best

What does the word concise mean?

You want to convey your message without extraneous words; get to the point.

Why do we want to be concise? 

  • People’s attention spans are not as long as they used to be. They are less likely to stick around for your entire message if that message takes too long to express.
  • FOR BROADCAST: Lengthy scripts slow down the pace of the newscast.  Pacing is how the show moves.  A faster pace makes the show feel alive.  A slower pace does the opposite.  Recall when someone told you a story with all of the irrelevant details.  You likely thought, “Please get to the point.”  Viewers/listeners are the same way.
  • FOR BROADCAST: Lengthy scripts affect the anchor’s energy.

How do we do it?

  • When you have gotten your message across, stop writing.
  • Ask yourself if the audience really needs to know the detail you are contemplating including.  What does it add to the story?
  • Ask yourself how much of the background of a follow up story you really need to include.
  • Cut!  Copy-edit your material with your backspace key.
  • Be the viewer.  Ask yourself what you would want to know.
  • Know your audience.  If it’s a group of scientists who likely want more detail, maybe you want to go a bit longer.  If it’s a television news audience, condense as much as possible.  People only have so much time to give you in their busy lives.
  • Cut unnecessary words like “to be” verbs and “that.”  Eliminate “or not” when using “whether or not” and “if or not”.  Many times the word “on” is unnecessary as well.
  • Cut redundant words or unnecessary modifiers:
    • Completely destroyed
    • Completely shutdown
    • Armed gunman
    • Dead body
    • Pickup truck
    • Semi-truck
    • ATM machine
    • Final outcome
    • Unexpected surprise
    • Tornado touchdown
    • May possibly
  • Vigorously audition every word.  Does it deserve to be in your copy?
  • Use active voice.

 

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