12 December 2017

Tricks of the Trade to Tighten Your Copy: Part 1

The first draft of anything you write rarely results in your best draft. Copy goes through multiple rounds of revision before it’s ready to hand off for review. This work may be at the hands of an editor, or it may fall to you.

If you find yourself in this position, grab your red pen and apply these tricks of the trade to tighten your writing.

Simplify word choice

Jargon can kill your copy and cause your audience to tune out. Good writing is clear and concise. It uses simple, everyday language. If your reader needs to use a dictionary to understand what you’re saying, rewrite using audience-friendly words.

Eliminate adverbs

Adverbs don’t bring much to the table, and some would argue that they actually weaken your copy. If you’re using a lot of adverbs, grab the thesaurus and replace your verb/adverb combos with powerful verbs instead.

Cut empty language

Your writing doesn’t need phrases such as in order to, therefore and thus. Easy fix: change “I’m going to the conference room in order to attend a meeting” to “I’m going to the conference room for a meeting.” Tighter writing makes for easier reading.

Replace prepositional phrases

Prepositions lengthen your sentences. Replace prepositional phrases with more direct word choices. And if the phrase doesn’t add anything to your copy, simply delete it.

Make friends with contractions

Contractions aren’t the enemy of good writing. They actually make your writing reader-friendly and easier to read. You can transform formal, stuffy writing into copy that sings with contractions.

Break up long sentences

Long sentences may be grammatically correct, but they tend to contain too many ideas. By the time readers get to the end of the sentence, they don’t remember what they were reading. Check your copy for sentences that contain many commas and break them up. Shoot for no more than 14 words per sentence.

Learn more tricks of the trade for tighter copy in Part 2 of this series.