Writing short, powerful content

Writing short, powerful content

Attention spans are shorter than ever, so all communicators are charged with writing short, powerful content. Concise writing drives home key points and calls readers to act.

So why do communicators write longer pieces? Often, it’s because writing short is more difficult. It requires dedication, effort and editing – and often, a little more time.

It’s worth the effort. Short, powerful content grabs – and keeps – readers’ attention. With it, you can deliver compelling, interesting information to your audience and have confidence that it’s being read and understood.

Here are five tips to make any piece of content more powerful, no matter its length:

- Embrace the “nut graph.” The “nut graph” is the all-important paragraph (or paragraphs) that’s the “nut” of the piece for your audience. Use it to directly tell readers why they should care. It should be in the lead or shortly afterward.

- Use active voice. Noun + verb + subject = your formula for success. It can feel simplistic, but it’s always the easiest to understand for the reader.

- Ditch introductory clauses. Some writers try to use flowery introductions to make their writing more interesting. In reality, introductory clauses are clunky and confuse the reader.

- Stick to one idea per sentence. Compound sentences muddle the message, are hard to understand, and frequently lead to grammatical errors. Aim for 8-12 words per sentence.

- Be a brutal editor. Re-read your copy at least three times. Tighten the copy sentence by sentence, aiming to cut the piece by 10 percent or more. Then tighten it again.

Above all, writing short requires dedication and time. Concise, powerful copy is well worth the extra effort.

This blog post is a truncated version of “How to Write Short,” a presentation for writers and editors who want to write shorter, more powerful content. B2 Communications presented “How to Write Short” at the PRSA Sunshine District Conference and to the PRSA Independent Practitioners Alliance in 2019. Bring us to present to your team!