Concise Writing - How to Write in a Minimalist Style

See also: Writing Effective Emails

One of the most common problems that new, and even professional writers, struggle with from time to time is making their writing more concise. It’s easy to get carried away when talking about a subject, which results in articles being a lot more long-winded than they need to be, resulting in a bored reader.

Your goal is to keep your reader interested by saying what you need to say in as few words as possible.

Writing concisely is the sign of a true writer. It’s been said your work is finished not when there is nothing left to add, but when nothing else can be taken away. Today, we’re going to explore everything you need to know to make your writing more precise and straight to the point, allowing you to communicate your message clearly and in an easily digestible format.

Stop Using ‘That’

‘That’ is potentially one of the most common words that new writers tend to use in their content but is unnecessary to do so. In fact, there are two types of ‘that’ - ones that you need and ones that are best avoided.

When you’re re-reading your content, keep re-reading it to see whether you can remove ‘that’ and whether it still makes sense.

Minimize Your Conversational Words

A lot of writers like to show off their command of dialogue by using conversational words after insert quotes or other kinds of speech in their content.

Some of these include;

  • Exclaimed
  • Shouted
  • Chuckled
  • Cried
  • Screamed
  • Sang

And so on and so forth. However, this only distracts the reader from the point you’re trying to make.

Stick to using words like ‘said’, ‘asked’ and ‘says’. Your readers will be used to seeing these words and will simply look over them. They’re reading the dialogue, not the words around them.

Focus on the substance of what is being said, not your variety of conversational verbs. The reader doesn’t care.

Use Smaller, Easier Language

See also: Using Plain English

To show off your grasp of the English language, it can be tempting to use longer words to get your point across. However, the more complex the language you’re using, the more likely you are to confuse your reader and the longer the word count of your content will be.

Always remember, your goal is clear and concise communication to the reader. You’re not William Shakespeare so avoid unnecessarily flowery and poetic prose.

Keep it simple and straightforward. Try to use smaller, simpler words where you possibly can, allowing you to share your message to the vast majority of readers, unless, of course, the content you’re writing requires complex language or jargon. By doing this, you also benefit because your chance of misusing a word goes down.

Some examples of this, and the alternatives, include:

  • Utilization - Use
  • Upon - On
  • Remainder - Rest
  • Notification - Notice

Writing in Active Voice, Not Passive

Typically, passive voice, or writing in the past tense, means you’re going to be adding a lot more words to your sentences. For example; saying ‘The pizza had been ordered by Tom’, could easily be condensed into ‘Tom ordered pizza’.

While this may not seem like a lot, throughout an entire piece of content, you can knock off a considerable number of words.

See our page, Active and Passive Voice for more on this

Condense Your Data

If you’re talking about data in your content, it’s important to keep it all in one place. This is because there are only so many times you can refer to it and repeating means you’re only going to add to your total word count.

For example, if you’ve included a graph in your article or post, don’t then go into mentioning the same statistics over and over again; the reader can see already what you’re talking about. Let the data speak for itself, and spare your reader from seeing it multiple times.

Abbreviate Where Possible

This is a much easier process than you might think. If you’re using names of people, or mentioned organizations, try to use the abbreviated form, especially if you’re using the same term repeatedly in your content.

Minimize the Use of ‘Hedging’ Words

Hedging words are words that are added into your content but are not relevant to your content and in a lot of cases will edge the reader towards doubting the quality of your work. This group of words includes examples like ‘may’, ‘possibly’ or ‘could’.

If you’re not sure about a statement that you’re writing, then you probably shouldn’t use it.

Avoid Adjectives Where Possible

No matter what you’re describing, it can be incredibly tempting to use extra words, even if you’ve got the intention of bringing your point across with dramatic effect. While this will only knock a few words out of a sentence, this method only can decrease your overall word count drastically.

Be Merciless in Your Minimalism

You’ve probably become used to aiming for high word counts from going to school: trying to sneak in a few words wherever you can to finally reach that required word count for your English paper. But the reality is, shorter is nearly always better. You’ll make your writing more accessible and your point more clear. Follow the above guidelines and you will soon make concise writing a habit. For even more help, consider enlisting a professional book editor to go over your draft and help you fully polish your language.

About the Author

Grace Carter is an online writer and business coach from Florida. She manages analytics of various online e-commerce websites.