Writing is about getting your point from your head into your readers head. The medium is not important and for the sake of this article, neither is the message. The bit we are focusing on is the process of transferring. People write amazing things every day, but they often lose their readers by not following one single rule within writing. The rule of cutting.
Why We Need to Cut
The rule of cutting is about reducing the overall number of words in our writing, and this is important for several reasons.
- Improved Clarity – When we write, as authors we get lost in what we’re saying and if we don’t have an editor to keep us on track; the message can get lost. As a reader though, there is nothing worse than reading an article that is two hundred plus words more than what is needed.
In our busy world, people don’t want to be fighting their way through an article, like they’re reading a book. Most people want a short and snappy piece of writing that delivers all the information they need in one small, manageable hit.
- Improved Reading & Writing – To cut, is to read and re-write the words we have produced. By re-reading and cutting out the unnecessary words from our articles, we are forcing ourselves to decide what words are important and what ones aren’t. We are training ourselves to identify un-needed words and phrases, which we can then apply to our future work.
By training our minds to write less without sacrificing quality, we provide our readers with a more concise, fluid and, elegant piece of writing for them to enjoy.
- Improved Credibility – Writers waffle. We have too many ideas in our heads, and they all get spilt out onto the page with zero consideration of how they sound to the reader. But, how does it sound to the reader when the author is consistently saying the same thing repeatedly?
By repeating ideas, we come across as having a lack of confidence in our knowledge and ability, which in turn leads to us, as authors having less credibility than we aspire to achieve. By cutting words out and still delivering the same quality of writing, we still deliver the point, but our tone of writing is more confident and credible.
- More Sophisticated – Cutting words increases our credibility. But, it also makes writers more sophisticated. I don’t know about you, but when I first began writing, I would repeatability say the same thing with no progression. At best this made me seem, unconfident in my writing but it could have been interpreted as immature writing, lacking any sense of sophistication.
By cutting out all the waffle and communicating my point effectively, the tone of my articles seems more sophisticated which ultimately reflects on the author.
These are the four ways I have observed my writing ability develop by learning how to cut words. It’s hard at first, but once you’ve practised it, you’ll be grateful you did.
How to Cut
Outlined below is my simple three-step checklist to cutting words from any piece of writing. By running your writing through this checklist, you could save yourself and your reader hundreds of words.
- Refined Ideas – From experience alone, one of the leading attributed to authors over-writing is unrefined ideas. When we’re not sure on the idea we are selling, we feel like we must produce the illusion we are in control. When in reality, we are sitting on a runaway train with no destination.If you want to improve your writing, then you need to be dead set on your idea before you begin. If we start with having a plan that acts as a guideline for our piece to keep us on track, then we can’t go far wrong. Following this, draft and re-work all pieces before publishing them, constantly asking if you are communicating your idea as well as you could. No? Then re-write it.
- Rewriting Sentences – Once you have a draft you’re happy with, get picky about, read through your draft, highlighting any sentences that seem to long, waffled or, unclear. Take these sentences and re-write them until you have a product that is shorter and clearer than the one you had previously. You can shave two or three hundred words off an article by doing this alone.
- Removing Unnecessary words – Now, run your piece through with a fine comb; to catch the bits that might have evaded any previous checks. In this scenario, a tool like Grammarly is helpful. Grammarly will highlight any unnecessary words that could you could remove while still preserving the piece’s integrity and tone of voice, allowing you to get further reductions.
I used this checklist in my previous article ‘3 Steps to Build a Better Future by First, Accepting the Past.’ By following this checklist, I took the original word count of 1150 and reduced it to 982 in the final version, a saving of 168 words or 14% of the original word count. On the surface, this doesn’t sound much. However, 168 words are nearly equal to a minute of reading on average, and that’s a big deal in today.
The best part of this process is that we’re constantly learning and improving. Each time we use this checklist we are producing pieces that are clearer and more fluid while reducing the number of words.
Thank you for reading!
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