Make Every Word Count

Imagine you’re in a movie theatre when you notice a fire beginning to break out. Which of the following are you more likely to shout?

“Excuse me, everyone, but I believe the building we’re currently in may soon become engulfed in flames! We are all in danger, and should evacuate as soon as humanly possible!”

or

“FIRE!”

Though both examples convey the exact same message, the second one gets the point across much more efficiently: The building is on fire, get out now.

What does this have to do with blogging? It’s not like reading an article is a life or death situation, right?

Okay, so it’s true no one will die if it takes them too long to read your writing. But If it takes too long, they will move on before getting the full effect of your article.

In his opening lines of a post on high intensity writing, Michael Stackpole says a major goal of effective writing is “to pack a lot of information into as few words as possible.”

Neil Patel echoes this sentiment, explaining that the intensity of a blog post directly relates to its value and length. The longer a post is, the more valuable it should be.

That makes sense: if a post is 2,000 words long, but the audience only finds one 200-word section valuable, 90% of it is worthless – and the entire article would be seen as such.

If that valuable section were to be made into a standalone article, its value would become crystal clear to the audience.

So how do you do you maximize the value of your blog posts?

Simple: Make every word count.

Okay, it’s not that simple – especially if you’re transitioning to blogging from academic writing. But it can be done.

First, check for adverbs.

I know I went on about ditching your thesaurus in my last post, but I also mentioned the importance of being specific when it comes to your word choice. When it comes to using adverbs (or not using them, I should say), word choice is everything.

He ran quickly.”

So, what’s the problem?

Considering the sentence is only three words long, there’s not much room for error.

But there are two problems here:

First of all, the adverb “quickly” doesn’t add anything to the sentence. If a person is running, the reader will assume he’s being quick about it. If the person was running awkwardly, or doggedly, that’d be a different story. But saying “He ran quickly” is like saying “He screamed loudly”; the adverb serves no purpose.

Secondly, if the point of this sentence is that he ran faster than normal, it could have said “He sprinted.” Big deal, right? So I used two words instead of three. But think of the big picture. If you extrapolate this simple fix throughout a 1,200 word post, there would be roughly 400 extraneous words throughout the article. That’s enough for a whole new post! Unless the adverb truly adds value to the verb, find a better verb to use.

Next on the chopping block: redundancies.

Unnecessary redundancy is redundant and unnecessary
From the Department of Redundancy Department

“It’s absolutely necessary to get rid of any superfluous redundancies in your online blogging.”

Did you catch them all?

Absolutely necessary.” Is anything ever not absolutely necessary? If it’s necessary, it’s necessary. If you read the section on adverbs, this should be a no-brainer.

Superfluous redundancies.” By definition, a redundancy is superfluous. No need to qualify it. Other examples of redundancies include “Unintentional mistake” and “historic milestone.” I’m sure we’ve all used similar phrases while writing term papers in high school to pad our word count. You don’t need to do that anymore.

Online blogging.” Okay, I doubt anyone says this, but I needed one more example. If you’re blogging, there’s a 100% chance you’re doing so online. You don’t need to clarify that to your audience.

With these changes, a fourteen-word sentence becomes an eleven-word sentence. Again, it doesn’t sound like much, but this would mean a 1,400 word post would only really need to be 1,100 words. Once more, that’s enough for an entire new post.

Lastly, get rid of passive voice.

The droning, computerized voice is bad enough, but when coupled with the constant use of “was,” it’s enough to put you to sleep.

The test was failed by half the class.” Not only does this sentence shift the focus of the message onto the test, but it also adds a few unnecessary words.

You can send the same message using an active voice, and it focuses the reader’s attention on the intended subject: “Half the class failed the test.”

What could have been said in six words took the first writer eight. Multiply that by 100, and you have an 800-word post that only needed to be 600 words long. If 25% of your article is fluff, it’s barely worth skimming.

The Takeaway

As has been this blog’s theme so far, your days of writing for a teacher are gone. You no longer need to stretch out your message over a specific amount of words to fill a quota. In fact, your audience wants you to get your message across as quickly as possible.

Making every word of a post count not only makes it easier for your audience to read it, but it also allows you more time and energy to focus on what you have to say next.

I’m sure there are other ways to cut the fluff out of your writing, but I wanted to hit the big points first. What else could I have included on this list? Throw me some ideas, and I’ll dig up some more sources for you! Also, if I used any adverbs, redundancies, or passive voice, call me out. I thought I caught them all, but nobody’s absolutely perfect, right?…I’ll see myself out.

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