The Simple Key To Good Writing

Want to make your writing stronger?

Do this: cut.

Your first draft will inevitably be bloated. That’s ok – it’s part of writing. But don’t end up with more filler than killer stuff. That does nothing to advance your message or motivate your reader.

It’s true for fiction writers and it’s true for marketers.

Go through the first draft you wrote – blog posts, white papers, video scripts – and take out as many words as you possibly can.

Cut with purpose. Cut mercilessly. Cut with joy.

But cut.

“If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”
– George Orwell

Aim to make that first draft 20 per cent shorter. Start with all the unnecessary words. If it doesn’t contribute to the sentence’s meaning, take it out.

That’s the key to good writing. It will simplify your work and make your meaning clearer to your audience. Today, that means they won’t be tempted to click away to the next shiny thing on the internet.

Those adverbs don’t do much – cut ‘em. Don’t be “very” innovative when innovative does the job just as well. Adverbs are flab on the muscularity of good writing.

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
– Mark Twain

Cut big words and replace them with smaller ones. That’s how people talk. We never “utilize” our iPhone- we “use” it. Direct, concise prose works better. It keeps the reader moving forward.

Are you writing something that allows contractions? If you’re in marketing then yes, you are. Go with it. Formalized writing looks pretentious and cluttered.

So turn “cannot” into “can’t” to give your work better flow.

Be judicious with punctuation. Remove unnecessary commas that impede the sentence without guiding the reader. Avoid the scourge of internet writing, the exclamation point. It’s juvenile.

“Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.”
– Elmore Leonard

Cut as much as you can, then review. If you’ve cut to the bone you may need to add back in a few words, but take it easy. With the red ink of editing bleeding across the page, you will create a piece of writing that is stronger and more effective.

Allan Gates

Allan Gates is the president of Bonfire.