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The Best Concise Writing Tip I Ever Learned

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Ever read a blog, an article, or an entire book and thought, “Wow, the author could have told me that in a few bullet points, a couple of paragraphs, or without those extra 100 pages”?

I learned the most basic and most critical tip for how to write more concisely in my English class back in middle school. I had to write a story about a personal event and was given only a time limit. When the class was finished the teacher asked us to count the number of words in our story.  I wrote about 1,000 words and was feeling very proud of myself, as if I had accomplished a great feat.

The teacher told us to take that same story and write it with HALF the number of words.  I did not believe it could be done, and my ego told me it was a perfect story just the way it was.   Reluctantly I started crossing out all of the unnecessary words.  When I recounted my words, I was surprised that I was able to cut the length in half and still tell a good story.

Once again, the teacher told us to cut that second version in half.  This time it was more difficult and I was forced to think of ways I could replace entire phrases or sentences with fewer words.  I was honing my writing skills and I didn’t even know it. When my 250-word story was finished, it was much better because I had carefully chosen words that kept the story interesting.

Note to Self: Writing and editing can be a very cerebral and complicated process, but don’t let it overwhelm you.  Go back to the basics, and back to the 7th grade: Count your words and start to see what you can do without.  It really works and it also respects the value of your readers’ time.

P.S. This blog was originally 566 words and with two attempts I was able to reduce it to 314 words.  To view the first version, click on the link below.
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