Concise, to-the-point content writing

By Richard Arneson

When you are writing content for your website, vanquish those thoughts of your English teacher who demanded that a particular paper had to be a certain amount of words. In other words, don’t fret about the length of your content. In the case of a blog, you can find articles that support the claim that they must be at least 2,000 words, others that will tell you to keep them under 700 or so. Personally, I subscribe to the latter. I always assume that the reader has a limited amount of time because, well, I always do. A 700-800 word piece will take about 5 minutes for the average reader to consume. If I see a blog that I’m thinking about reading, I’ll quickly scroll down to see how long of a commitment I’m about to make. If it scrolls and scrolls (2,000 words scroll quite a bit), chances are I’m not going to read it, at least not at that moment. I’ll put it aside to read later, but rarely do.

You’re in it for the mindshare

If you feel you don’t have enough content, you’ll probably begin doing what is the archenemy of content writing―wasting the reader’s time. Your intended audience isn’t going to take their laptop out to the pool, kick back with a Mai Tai, and prepare to read your content while they bake in the sun. This isn’t a Dickens novel. Your content is competing for mindshare against a ton of information.

Begin with the CTA in mind

Because all content should end with some type of CTA (Call to Action), you should have that in mind before it’s time to write. It will help you stay focused while you’re writing. Everything you write―I’m talking each sentence―needs to help lead the reader down the CTA road. In the case of content writing, consider the CTA as being similar to the overall theme (good vs. evil, boy meets girl, loses girl, then wins her back, et al.) of a film, novel, or play. Think about Star Wars, which is what many film professors consider to be the quintessential story about a hero’s quest to vanquish evil. Each line of the movie helps move the story forward in support of the hero’s quest, culminating when Luke destroys the Death Star with a one in a million shot (hey, it’s Hollywood). The CTA should be supported by each sentence of the content, culminating in the reader taking action, whether to make a call, fill out a form, watch a video, view additional materials, or download content.

Consider this Stephen King suggestion on content…even though it’s a little creepy

With your CTA in mind, it’s time to create some great, yet concise, content. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, using the Active Voice will get your points across faster and more clearly. And always remember who you’re writing for―the reader. You may have written the most beautiful sentence of your career, but if it’s not concise, to the point, and doesn’t move the reader to positively engage your CTA, re-write it or cut it out entirely.

According to Stephen King in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” Sure, it’s advice written in a rather odd way, but it’s his way of saying Even if you love what you’ve written, kill it if it doesn’t support the story.

Don’t mistake ‘simple’ with ‘unintelligent’

Make it simple, but don’t confuse simple with sounding less intelligent or impressive. You’re not writing in an academic setting; you’re writing to create great content. That’s not to say you can jettison good grammar and proper punctuation. If you’re worried about sounding less intelligent or impressive, don’t overlook it.

Shorten and Tighten

Shorten the length of your sentences to, if possible, no more than 30 words or so. Doing so will not only keep the reader more engaged, it will reduce the chance that you’ll confuse them. If they’re confused, they’re probably out of there.

Tighten up your phrases. After each sentence, ask yourself whether there is a more concise way to write it that will deliver the same meaning. If you write Let us explain the ways in which our company can deliver more leads to your sales force, tighten it up with We’ll explain how we can deliver more leads to your sales force.

It’s tempting the include adverbs and adjectives to bring more life to your writing, but it’s often unnecessary, especially in content writing. Does the reader really need to know that your product extremely reduces time to market or that your internet service is really fast? If you’re writing that it’s fast, is the reader going to question whether or not it’s actually fast just because you’ve left out an adverb?

Questions about Writing Concise Content?

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