Keep it short, writer

Posted by Raashida Khan on 19 September 2016 7:00 PM CAT

 I apologise for the length of the letter. I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time.

Mark Twain/ George Bernard Shaw/ Voltaire/ Blaise Pascal/Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,/Winston Churchill/ Pliny the Younger, Cato/Cicero/Bill Clinton/Benjamin Franklin (These are just some of the authors credited with the saying (in its various formats).

Being able to succinctly deliver your message has never been as important as it is today. We are the most time-poor, technology-rich, distracted, sought-after society ever; online or switched onto something almost all our waking hours. Yet we still cannot get through everything. Simply because there is way too much out there.

Delivering your message and content effectively is as much about how quickly you can capture your audience, as it is how good the actual delivery is. Content developers need to learn how to be brief. Writing less takes more time. So too, conceptualising and honing sharp attention-grabbing headlines and introductory remarks. If you don’t reach your reader in the first few minutes, you’ve lost him/her.  

Some general tips on getting this right:

1.     Start with a definite intention of what the message is. This avoids wandering.

2.     Write short sentences. This forces you to get what you need to say in fewer words.

3.     Use bullet points or lists – this is easier on the eye (as there is more white space) and helps avoid repetition.

4.     Use specific words. Avoid jargon and unnecessary descriptors.

5.     Include links for people who may want detailed information. Most readers want a quick synopsis first.

6.     Declutter – stories and statistics must be relevant and enhance understanding of message.

7.     Practice.

8.     Edit. 

Honing this technique of succinct writing takes practice, so is often done better by those who have been writing longer. If you have to outsource, choose a reputable writer with a track record and references. It is essential then that one does not compromise on good quality content developers, who are always re-imagining and reinventing ways to deliver content. Infographics, videos are all the rage, but unless carefully planned and well-executed, will not be effective. The saying ‘Content is King’ should be changed to ‘Concise content is King.’





Raashida Khan is Account Director at Indigo New Media. She loves words and writing.




There are no comments

Sign in to add your comment.

Latest Posts

The LEGO hack that fuelled a great community
Lego had helped kids build cool stuff since the 1930s but they may not have built their firewalls...
read more
Communities could become one of your greatest assets in 2019
Communities are without a doubt becoming more and more critical to business, to civil society and...
read more
Why 67 minutes is just not enough
As I write this on the eve of Madiba’s centenary, and as many South African organisations rally...
read more
Will the real innovators please stand up?
I’m sitting in a conference audience, just last week in fact, listening to a seriously big tech...
read more
A day in the life of a 55-year old start-up entrepreneur
AKA from former hero to below-zero with the intention of rising from the ashes as the superhero
read more