The secret of writing less

Quick tips on how to say more with fewer words.

We increasingly digest content in shorter, more concise forms. As a result, marketing and communications professionals are having to tell engaging corporate stories with fewer words.

But common ‘tricks’ such as contractions and acronyms can interrupt the flow of our writing, and can be at odds with brands’ defined tone of voice. Here are four ways to write less without compromising your identity or the integrity of your message.

Choose punctuation carefully

Punctuation can be incredibly hard-working. A colon can be used to mean “therefore”; an em-dash (—) can be used to insert an aside without introduction, and an ellipsis (…) can suggest anything from apathy to annoyance to allure, depending on the context.

Now, new forms of punctuation and other grammar tools are being developed to meet the ways people have come to express themselves online. Examples that are slowly entering into common usage include: the snark mark (~), used to indicate sarcasm, and the interrobang, a combination of question and exclamation marks (‽ or !?), to show disbelief.

Exploit pun and humour

Puns mean two things at once, which means it takes half the number of words to tell your story. The famous Peperami slogan is a perfect example: “it’s a bit of an animal”. It has both literal meaning (and a rather sarcastic one at that), and it connotes the product’s ‘wild’ taste.

Similarly, humour in the form of wit can help convey the gist of a point in fewer words than a straight-up explanation, like this ad for Porsche: “Honestly now, did you spend your youth dreaming about someday owning a Nissan or a Mitsubishi?”

Use pictures

A choice picture can tell a whole story in as few as one or two words. Just two words, ‘Entrance’ and ‘Exit’ are included in this example from advertising agency DraftFCB, Germany for Weight Watchers:

Weight Watchers creative print ad

It says it all, really.

Be economical

Using words economically, in the sense of stripping an argument right down to its crux, takes some lateral and often mathematical thinking. One masterful example from the Cancer Patients Aid Association broke down what might otherwise have been a complex argument to a simple cause and effect. It read simply: “Cancer cures smoking”.

For some, this is a facetious statement — but it’s proclaimed so boldly that no one would dare argue against it. What’s more, it transforms a statement into an idea, which makes it all the more profound.

Employing these strategies to write less forces us to write more deliberately, which improves the overall efficiency of communication. As audiences spend ever less time reading words on a page, these techniques are vital to ensure you get your message across.

Interested in learning more? Discover how Bladonmore can support your business with strategic content across digital, film and print design.

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