Brevity is to online content as frosting is to cake. And everybody knows you can’t have cake without frosting.
The best online content is most often brief and direct. Yet sometimes, especially with complex topics, it’s tempting to carry on. If you need to trim your content, here are a few ways to do it.
1. Master Your Intro
Many online users visit web pages to learn something. So don’t dance around the subject—get to the heart of your issue as fast as possible. No dilly dallying!
Start with something eye-catching. Famous copywriter Joseph Sugarman recommends starting with a pithy sentence or even a single word. Whatever it is, it should compel the reader to read the next sentence, which should compel them to read the next, and so on until the end.
Pick an engaging first line. Introduce the issue. Then provide the solutions.
2. Cut Words Wherever Possible
Strunk and White said it best in The Elements of Style: “Omit needless words.” If you can cut a word without changing the meaning of the sentence, you probably should. If you can use one word in place of two, you definitely should.
For example, consider the following sentence:
“American Gods is a really good blend of modern fantasy, ancient religion, and even a little small-town Americana. In my opinion, it’s one of Neil Gaiman’s finest works, even compared to Good Omens or The Ocean at the End of the Lane.”
What can we cut from this sentence? For starters, “really good” isn’t particularly descriptive. (ProWritingAid loathes the word “really.”) Let’s use something more concrete, like “masterful.” The words “a little” aren’t offering much to this sentence, so I say we cut them. The phrase “in my opinion” can go because it’s already implied, and therefore unnecessary. And the references to Gaiman’s other works only lengthen the sentence with nonessential information. We’re focusing on American Gods here—his other books aren’t relevant.
Here’s our new sentence:
“American Gods is a masterful blend of modern fantasy, ancient religion, and small-town Americana. It’s one of Neil Gaiman’s finest works.”
That’s the same meaning in almost half the words. Huzzah!
If you need help to omit needless words, consider an app that finds them for you, like ProWritingAid. This can be a huge help, especially if you’re self-editing your work.
3. Watch Your Word Count
Most online content should be between 300 and 700 words, which takes roughly five to seven minutes to read. If that sounds like a short amount of time, it is. That’s not to say you can’t write long posts—just know that the lengthier the post, the less likely readers are to finish it.
When I write online content, I start with a word goal in mind. For example, with this topic, I envisioned myself writing about 500 words. That felt like the perfect length for enough information, yet not too much. So when my first draft clocked in at over 600, I knew I had edits to make. Give yourself a word count ceiling and try to stay beneath it.
Use these tips to trim your online content. Be brief, be concise. Enjoy the results!