When I was a schoolgirl back in Russia, we had Creative writing classes. The kids who used to write long essays stuffed with complex hard-to-read sentences (like this one) were nicknamed by the teachers. They called them ‘Leo Tolstoy’. I guess you know this name. Leo Tolstoy is a Russian writer famous for his huge epic novels such as ‘War and Peace’ or ‘Anna Karenina’. He loved writing a lot, and he loved extremely long sentences.
Many content marketers are Tolstoys. Long texts. Massive sentences. Hard-to-absorb articles. In this post, I’m going to share some tips that help me get rid of ‘Tolstoy syndrome’.
Why should you write less?
The research shows that people are getting less patient. They want to get and digest information as quickly as possible. They are getting tired with the texts longer than 800 words. Unless something attracts their opinion, they read texts through.
So, as the content marketers, we should learn to express our ideas using fewer words.
Can you write less?
Yes, you can. Almost each text can be compressed without the quality loss. Learn to leave out tons of word trash we put into the posts. You’ll be surprised at how brief and factual your articles can be.
How much is enough?
There is no precise number of words or abstracts. The main rule is: cover up your topic well in a few words. In most cases, 500 to 1000 words are more than enough. If you can break a long text into two posts, better do it.
Are there any exceptions?
Sure, there are exceptions everywhere. For example, long how-to-do guides, resource articles, or some complicated texts written for experts. But most often, the text can be reduced without any aftermath.
How to make your texts crystal clear in 6 steps :
1) Draft a plan
This recommendation may sound obvious. But I was surprised at how many content marketers skip this step. Detailed plans are half of the success. They help structure your thoughts and give an idea of the future text. You’ll spend less time writing your article and will have to make less after-work polishing your text.
2) Leave out meaningless sentences
Creative writing and content marketing are different things. Remove irrelevant sentences even if they are eye-candy. All text parts that don’t add anything to the core idea of the text should be cut down.
To illustrate this, let me remind you something. Do you remember that abstract about Leo Tolstoy in the beginning of the text? Did it contribute to the main idea of the text? What should I do with that? Yes, you’re right.
3) Remove adverbs and linking words and phrases.
Adverbs and linking phrases look good in novels and essays. But they make texts much longer and sentences harder-to-read. In most cases, you can get rid of them without the quality loss.
Ask yourself if this word or phrase is crucial for the idea expressed in the sentence. If it doesn’t add something to the meaning, remove it.
I also recommend you a Hemingway app. It scans your text and displays a maximum number of adverbs you may leave without making your text to complex.
4) Break down a text into abstracts and complex sentences into shorter sentences
Segment your text into smaller parts. It doesn’t just make your article more readable. It also helps realize which parts you may skip.
The same rule works for complex sentences. You should break them into smaller parts. You may think that segmenting sentences only makes your post longer. But you’ll be surprised to find out the opposite. You’ll see that you can omit some sentences or say some phrases in fewer words.
Try to avoid complex constructions, such as conditional clauses or passive voice. They make sentences heavier. Use them only when it’s absolutely necessary.
To detect hard-to-read sentences, you may use the same Hemingway app. It will point you at the sentences you should compress.
5) Read the text backward
This is a super-powerful tip a fellow marketer shared with me in the Inbound.org discussion. He recommended reading texts backward to proofread them: find typos or spelling mistakes.
I suddenly found it extremely helpful for polishing my texts. This method may sound a bit absurd, but it helps figure out which phrases you can remove or say in simpler words. I usually do it in the end after I’ve completed all previous steps.
And yes, it really helps find mistakes.
7) Show your post to a non-native speaker
This is my favorite tip. Content marketing is international. When you write a post you should consider your international readers. I usually show my texts to a smart boy or a girl who is good at English but not a native speaker. I ask them two questions:
- Is the text readable? Is everything clear?
- Did you read it through without losing your interest and attention?
If they answer ‘yes’ both times, I publish my post.
These were my favorite tips that help compressing posts. If you use other tricks, please share them!
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69 thoughts on “How To Write Less and Say More: Smart Writing Technique”
It is really helpful for shortening my blog posts. However, I just wanted to ask one question. Is this also applicable for niche sites which are a bit technical (for example- finance)?
Thank you very much…
This post is going to be very helpful to me
Thanks, Thanks, Thanks,! Sasha for dis wonderful writeup. I’ve been battling with this same issue for some time now.
But with the tips you gave, it’s approximately what I needed at the right time.
well, two things are involved. 1. Knowing when to lay more emphasis because of the level understanding of your target audience. 2. Know when to write bullet points because the pros don’t have time for your emphasis. They have seen it all.
The two things involved are how to write to a pro or a newbie
You made agood point. Writing dhort also increases and maintain readers interest and coming back for more. But Today mostly Everyone is fighting for google. Even if I can,I try to make my posts longer by adding more information related to the topic.
Hope this would add something.
Hi, this is right that people have less patience to read long content, so I trying to use as many as subheading. In addition we can use a summary of the post in such a manner the reader found interesting information then he or she may go with the content. However I am not using the app, that’s useful information for me. Thanks for sharing.
I was trained in High School to do this and it taught me to always self-edit. Makes for getting your point across, successfully !
I agree with the part that says that people are becoming too impatient to read longer articles and this is why we should concentrate on writing shorter, more comprehensive articles as in 500-1000 words. But in this post-Hummingbird era, will shorter content make the cut and stand out in terms of SERP?
Wow, am so greatful with this article Sasha, i’ll surely apply Number 3, 5 and 7. I also try to make my content short and striaght to the point.
Thank you for this! Sharing it right away!
Helpful to minimze content size. Especially I liked reading text backward!! really nice. Thanks for sharing it.
Write less to say more. This is again a good post from SML. But still confusing on the number of words.
The thing i find hard is to write as if i am speaking to someone.
I always try to be to formal in my writing.
I applaud you for writing this blog, Sasha.
It’s NOT easy condensing ideas and language, or writing tips for a different audience.
Your suggestions for writing shorter blogs are appreciated.
I’d add one more. Omit points the readers already know -from researching guest-blog topics, blogs and comments.
Post length is one of several factors I consider when writing a popular guest-post that impresses the owner / editor, and leaves readers wanting more.
People dont like very long articles. Its hard to read. You have shared some meaningful points. Excellent article. Thanks for sharing.
Useful and worthy article.
Great Tips! Being a technical writer, I’ve always struggled to write ‘non technical’ posts. I’m definitely going to keep this post handy and keep practicing 🙂
I think these are all very useful tips – thanks for sharing. These tips are what strong writers do every day. Saying more with less is the best kind of writing. I think that’s why enjoy blog writing because the whole point is to say as much as you can in the smallest space.
Yes its really good tips.
I’m trying to reduce the content but couldn’t since I feel If I couldn’t explain then post might be unnoticed.
But I’m planning to reduce BIG article.
Hence what I have done is
I’m maintaining the small paragraph which means it won’t be long more than 3 lines which will be easy to read.
I’m adding Subtitle which will be easy to understand and if reader want to skip particular session then they can do easily.
Hope its working
I totally agree with you Alvassilieva. Less is more when you say things precisely to the point.
Images help in detailed description with less text
thats great article which am searching so thanks 😉