Stop Writing So Much
I write a lot.
If you’ve ever heard me tell a story, you know that I like to include all of the details. The same is true for my writing – I write a LOT (you should have seen the first draft of this… and the second… and the third). That’s why it’s going to be really hard for me to tell you this.
Did you know that most people have about a 9th grade reading level? That means that unless your audience is very technical, they shouldn’t have to stumble over details or unfamiliar terms to get to the main point of your content. They want the most important information very clearly spelled out for them.
So how do you stop writing so much?
Some things to remember:
- Your audience’s time is important, so don’t waste it. Make your points easy to grasp and straight to the point. It’ll help them retain your ideas more easily and see you as a trusted source without all the fluff.
- There’s a difference between content and comprehensibility. You don’t have to dumb down what you’re writing about; you just need to make it more comprehensible. A 9th grader may not want to read your content, but they should be able to understand what you’re saying.
- Stop trying to sound smart. We’re taught all throughout school and our professional lives that the more sophisticated we sound in our writing, the more successful we’ll be. That’s why we send emails littered with buzzwords and complex phrases. It’s why we try to stretch our blog posts out to be 1,000+ words when we can get the point across in just 500. But you’re not going to come across as trustworthy if it takes someone three tries to read your first sentence.
If you’re interested, I have two tools that can help you with this.
1. I’m currently reading The Storytelling Edge from the same people that bring you Contently (I highly recommend reading their articles regularly). This entire post was actually inspired by a section in chapter 3 where they experiment with cutting down content from 46 words to just 23. This obviously made my detail-loving self cry a little on the inside, but I’ve been practicing this in my own writing for our clients. Whether you love including unnecessary details in your writing or you’re a buzzword fanatic, this will help. Just write something down, then condense it. Then condense it some more. Then see how much easier it is to get your point across.
2. At Syrup, we use a WordPress plugin called Yoast SEO that gives us a full readability breakdown of each webpage or post so we can make sure our content is easy to read. Here’s the breakdown for this post:
You’ll actually lose points for complex sentences or long paragraphs. And the easier it is to read, the higher you’ll score.
I hope this helps you loosen your writing chains a bit and discover better ways to reach your audience. If any of this actually makes you fear writing even more than you did before, my team and I can help you. Let’s talk.