Strip out the clutter

writing May 10, 2021

Don’t send a bunch of words to do the work of one.

‘Now’ is a simple replacement for ‘at this moment of time’. Why write ‘they had a meeting’ when you could simply say ‘they met'. 'Went down to defeat’ simply means ‘lost’.

Why is it so important to trim out words, and reduce the length of words? Because we are all bombarded with offers and invitations and requests. (Think of the messages you’ve been subjected to already today… social media, radio, newspapers, billboards, television, posters, web sites, email, flyers).

At one time you could assume your audience had an attention span of 30 seconds. That’s about 90 words.

Now it’s closer to 5 seconds, or 15 words. We decide quickly whether we will watch a show, or listen to a song – or read your lovingly-crafted piece of writing.

You want your readers to look at your message and go ‘wow’. Your message needs to hit home fast. You can’t afford to have any clutter.

Here are some more examples of clutter:

In my opinion, I think…                         says the same thing twice

Please R.S.V.P.                                        RSVP includes ‘please’

Close proximity                                      proximity means closeness

Depreciate in value                                just lop off the last two words

Evolves over time                                   ‘evolves’ includes the concept of time

Sum total                                                  pick one

Here’s another reason why you need to communicate simply and clearly. More than 40 per cent of Canadians have prose literacy below level 3. They are comfortable dealing only with simple, clear material involving uncomplicated instructions and tasks.

Most of what you write will have one objective - to make people think or act differently.

They’re more likely to do that if the message is simple and uncluttered.