Tips for Writing More Concise?

My job is writing. I write blog posts, news articles, long form, short form, the whole nine. I’ve always loved writing and it’s what I’ve wanted to my whole life, so I’m really quite happy with my job and what I’m doing.

One of the things my job has is an editor, which I actually haven’t ever had before in my writing. She says my biggest problem (right now at least) is that I’m not doing too well on word economy and conciseness.

Does anyone out there who has WAY more writing experience than I have any tips/websites/articles they can give me to help me write more efficiently?

Any help would be appreciated!

Leave off all the “lys.”

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Your “editor” is trying to get you to do her job for her, so she can sit on her butt all day, eating bon-bons.

Ignore her; there are more column inches to fill than ever. Type on!

Has your editor given you any more detail? Are you using too many unnecessary words? Whole sentences? Repeating yourself? Saying things that aren’t relevant to the point you’re trying to make?

Got an example of a post you’ve written here that you think might be an example of what your editor is talking about?

However, I would have made your title:

Writing-concisely Tips

I’ve been writing for 40 years, and editing other people for a large chunk of that time. If I had to give one rule for tight writing, it would be: Don’t write your first sentence until you’re sure of what you want your last sentence to say. Then, to get from start to finish:

  1. Avoid passive voice

  2. Are those adjectives and adverbs necessary?

  3. Shorter sentences are snappier. Do you write too many compound sentences?

  4. Shorter paragraphs are better. Are you cramming too many thoughts into one graph?

  5. Look carefully at your lead/topic sentence. Are you getting to the point?

  6. Tangents. Are you staying on point?

When I went back to college in my fifties to complete a BS in management, I considered myself a competent writer. Performance reviews at work and comments from college instructors reinforced my opinion.

I was required to take a writing course. The instructor convinced me that I had all the tools to write well, but that I used too many words. She convinced me to look at everything I wrote and try to remove words that didn’t need to be there.

Here is an example of the stuff she suggested to me.

I am not suggesting that you should have been more concise in your OP. This is just an example of how words can be cut for conciseness.

ETA: Ninja’d! :cool:

Do you edit your own work before sending it to your editor?

My first drafts of anything are usually 50 to 200 percent longer than their final versions. I toss a lot of words onto the screen and then pare down.

As an example, your text above is clear and probably close to your verbal style. If I wished to publish it, I would edit it to read

Just keep telling yourself, “keep it short and sweet.”

I’m usually the one who gets ninja’d! Woo hoo!:slight_smile:


A touch of all of those, but it’s mostly deciding what is relevant to the piece.

I do self-edit, but the problem is I apparently don’t do it as well as I thought. Self editing is super hard for me too, and I’m working on it, I just need to toe the line between being concise and robo-talking. We do WANT people to read my crap after all

Turn something like that (115 words) into something like this (44 words):

My job is writing and I love it: blog posts, news articles, long and short form, everything. It’s my dream job.

I’m new to working with an editor, and she tells me I need to be more concise. How do I do that? Thanks!

You do that by looking for words, clauses, sentences and even paragraphs that are longer than they need to be, or even don’t need to be there at all, and then shortening or removing them. If you can do this reliably on a second pass you’ll find that it gets easier to be concise when writing a first draft, too.

When you’re doing it as an exercise, try hard to be as radical as you can. But when doing it for real, remember that concise is good, but there is also a place for some embellishment and try to find middle ground.

Although many long sentences are bad, many short sentences aren’t very good either. You need to mix it up, but err on the side of shorter rather than longer.

Another good exercise: try hitting your target word count exactly. So if it’s 400 words and you wrote 500, bring it down to exactly 400.

Last but not least, writers tend to fall in love with their creations. This is where “kill your darlings” comes in: you have to be ruthless and get rid of extraneous material, even if it’s a particularly clever turn of phrase.

I like this checklist. I think I have a problem with 4 and 5 the most, but I’ll use these to make a list

This is really interesting! I don’t have a hard word count, but I could implement one that I know is in our word count range and work backwards from there

Keep [del]asking yourself if there are[/del]* looking for* any [del]really[/del] superfluous words in your sentences.

Read some James Ellroy

Fixed it for you: [del]Keep asking yourself if there are[/del] Look[del]ing[/del] for [del]any really superfluous[/del] *** extra words.*** [del]in your sentences.[/del] Four words. Five syllables. Seventeen characters.

My tip for writing concisely? I lie in bed with the laptop on my belly. Typing is a pain, so I have to plan my sentences before typing them. But the rules of thumb are to lose the dross if you aren’t paid by the word, and remember that most people don’t share your vocabulary.

No, wrong. One does not write “concisely”. You use an adjective when your intent is to describe the product of the action rather than the action itself. You dress your children warm, you hug them warmly. You write a concise finished product. Concisely does not describe the manner of the action, but the product of it, which calls for an adjective.

There is no grammatical rule that says an adjective that comes after a verb needs to be changed to an adverb for no other reason than that it comes after a verb. You paint your house dark, not darkly. You cut your hair short, not shortly. You write more concise, not more concisely.

Adjectives, adverbs and prepositions can often be omitted without altering meaning.

Long strings of many adjectives, and unneeded adverbs can very often be simply omitted off the sentence, and in so doing not change the meaning very much at all.