Writing Tip #1: Brevity

Writing Tip #1: Brevity

In the spirit of brevity, I’m going to keep this under 500 words, no matter what.

If you’re not used to writing several hundred words about a topic, it can seem like you’ve written all of your essay after 350 words, only to groan when you realize you need to get it closer to 500. So you start stretching what you’ve written before. Instead of “I played point guard for my school’s varsity team the last three years,” you say “I held the position of starting point guard for my high school’s varsity team over the course of the last three seasons in which we won multiple games.”

A good writer knows the value of brevity. You may think that turning a 500-word piece into 340 words will make your life difficult, but it actually provides huge benefits. It gives you more room to provide more enriching content. You should always make your writing more concise; even fluff fiction keeps their words to a minimum as much as possible.

An Example in Brevity

“I began to believe that maybe if I could stay after practice to kick more field goals than normal, I might give my team a chance to win our next game.”

My first issue here is the use of the verb “begin.” Verbs like “begin,” “ought,” “realize,” “know,” and a couple others are fillers. A sentence like “I know that I can succeed” can almost always be condensed to “I can succeed.” So I’m cutting this down to “I believed that…”

Next, I dislike what I call “conditional phrases.” “Maybe,” “Perhaps,” “If I can,” weaken your writing and make you sound less confident. So this now gets cut down to “I believed that if I…”

“Could stay after practice to kick more field goals than normal” has a couple of words you can knock off. “Could” is not necessary, although you will sometimes need this word. You can cut “than normal.” So now we have “I believed that if I stayed after practice to kick more field goals…”

“I might give my team a chance to win our next game.” We’ve already discussed might, but here, “would” or “could” as a replacement makes the flow better. I actually would reword this to “I would improve my team’s success.” “Success” is a much briefer version of “a chance to win.” Finally, “improve” makes for a more active verb.

Finally, we have “I believed that if I stayed after practice to kick more field goals, I would improve my team’s success.” If we wanted to, we could cut this down even further, perhaps to something like “I knew extra practice kicking field goals would win us more games.”

If not, you still opened up 12 words. And that’s just from one sentence. What can you do with more words with just a few edits for brevity?

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