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6 Tips for Clear and Concise Writing

7/26/22

Content Marketing

What makes writing “good?” Proper grammar, punctuation, and syntax matter, of course. Using the correct word or phrase does, too. Clear and concise writing, however, helps you share your message with your audience. It’s attention-grabbing, straightforward, and easy to understand. 

If you’ve ever been given the advice to “write clearly and concisely” but you’re not sure what the heck that means, then you’ll like the tips we have for you below.

Eliminate extra words

Get to the point in your writing. Look for nominalizations. Nominalizations are lengthy phrases that can be replaced with a single word. That’ll help you make your point efficiently with the fewest number of words possible.

Example:

  • Original: “Our company provides customers with the ability to keep everyone informed on their respective teams.” 
  • Improved: “We help customers keep their teams informed.”

The phrase “provides…with the ability to” can easily be replaced with “help.” One word instead of five. Neat, right?

Use active voice 

When writing in the active voice, the subject of your sentence does something. “You bought a cup of coffee” is active, while “the coffee was bought by her” is passive. Another way to spot passive voice [link to july 3 passive voice blog]? Find verbs like be, is, are, or was. Figure out how to rearrange the sentence. 

There’s nothing wrong with passive voice, and it has its benefits for certain situations. But to be more direct, use active voice when you can. 

Example:

  • Original: “There were many pieces of content created last week.”
  • Improved: “We created many pieces of content last week.”

Swap “there were” and identify who did what action. That’s active voice.

Replace complicated words and phrases with simple alternatives

Check your words. Are you using complex, multisyllabic words that could be replaced with simpler synonyms? 

It depends on your brand and audience, but generally speaking, you don’t need to try and sound intelligent by picking complicated or less common words. Instead, you sound less natural and too stuffy.

Aim for a 4th grade to 9th-grade reading level. (Again, depending on your brand and audience.) Our favorite tool to make that happen? Hemingway App!

Remember, site users aren’t reading every word of your content as they would a book. They’re skimming for the information that they need. Your content must be easy to process.

Example:

  • Original: “Our tasks require us to generate multitudinous pieces of consumable media for our blog.”
  • Improved: “We need to create several pieces of content for our blog.”

We see this a lot in business-related content: brands beefing up each sentence so they sound more professional and important. Instead, it’s hard to understand the jargon…and it just makes our eyes roll.

Check for needless qualifiers and intensifiers

A qualifier is a word that limits or weakens the impact of a word or phrase. An intensifier is a word that strengthens the impact of a word or phrase. They are both kinds of modifiers that change the meaning of that word or phrase.

Qualifiers and intensifiers aren’t inherently bad; they can clarify the meaning of your sentence. Look at the sentence, “He is on time to work.” Look at the sentence again with a qualifier: “He is rarely on time to work.” See how the meaning changes?

Check for qualifiers and intensifiers that don’t add any meaning to your sentence. Remove them and reread your sentence again. If it feels the same, leave them out.

Example:

  • Original: “Basically, they need to buy extremely thoughtful gifts for their clients.”
  • Improved: “They need to buy thoughtful gifts for their clients.”

“Basically” is a qualifier that is a generalization, while “extremely” is a positive intensifier. Both can be removed so that the sentence is more direct.

Avoid definitions

When you use a word, leave it at that. There’s no need to include its definition in the sentence, too. That’s called tautology, and it’s a phrase that repeats the same information.  

Example:

  • Original: “Personally, I loved that new movie.”
  • Improved: “I loved that new movie.”

No need for the word “personally” here since we know that it’s your opinion.

Don’t go overboard

Rules are meant to be broken. Your writing may be for your business website or your blog, but that doesn’t mean you should ditch creativity completely! 

We officially give you permission to choose a fun word even when a simpler one will do. Write longer sentences that take your readers on a journey. Be extra and add phrases when they’re not needed. End sentences with prepositions. (Does anyone actually care about that one anymore?)

You still want your writing to sound like you, because that’s how you strengthen your brand voice. You also want to avoid sounding rude or abrupt because your content was too concise and your tone was off. 

Strive for clear and concise writing, but don’t focus on it too hard, otherwise you’ll end up sounding like a soulless robot. Keep it in mind when writing, and again when you edit your drafts. But don’t stop to delete words and replace phrases every few minutes, otherwise you’ll never finish what you’re writing. And you’ll likely end up hating it, too.

Aim for brevity, clarity, and simplicity

If all of these tips sound a little similar, you’re right! You’re aiming for brevity, simplicity, and clarity in your writing. That involves streamlining your content and getting rid of fluff to make your message obvious.

To recap, we recommend you:

  • Get rid of redundant or extra words and phrases
  • Write in active voice when possible
  • Use a simpler alternative when you can
  • Avoid definitions
  • Write naturally

When you’re finished editing your work for clear and concise writing, remember to check in with these three things: your reason for creating the content, the topic, and whether your audience cares. Then, review once more for accuracy, relevance, and brand voice.

After that? You’re good to go. For more tips on improving your writing, browse our blog!

Jess Hammons, Uncanny Content Writer and Meme Enthusiast
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