International Marketing Services

Writing Concise Posts

Writing Concise Posts

Clear Out Deadwood

Deadwood refers to a word or phrase that can be omitted without a loss in meaning.

Removing it shortens and clarifies your copy.

Once you recognize deadwood, it’s easy to eliminate.

Look for:

  • Words or phrases that add unneeded bulk to a sentence and weaken its message (quite right, very unique)
  • Common phrases that are bloated with redundant or highfalutin words (added bonus, currently unavailable)
  • Unimportant words at the beginning of a sentence that push the most important information farther from the start For Example: (As a matter of fact, in the same way)

It’s usually good to cut such words and phrases, but be aware that what is “deadwood” may depend on the context. In some cases you may want to retain words or phrases to emphasize a point, to maintain a certain voice, or to optimize your site for pickup by search engines.

Remove One-word Deadwood

Some common words appear in sentences only because people are used to hearing them—they aren’t essential to the sentence. You can usually cut the following words without losing meaning:

actively       easily       quite

actual        actually

existing    rather      already

extremely      really       always

fairly            several      any

much            simply

appropriate       appropriately      particular

suitable             associated           predefined

totally                automatic           automatically

previously      very       currently

quickly

Examples
Before
To review previously deleted items, click the View Deleted button.
After
To review deleted items, click the View Deleted button.

Before
Always make sure that you enter the right address and that it is spelled correctly.
After
Make sure that you enter the right address and that it is spelled correctly.

Remove Deadwood Phrases

Unnecessary phrases at the beginning of a sentence push the meaningful information to the middle of the sentence farther than a scanning reader is likely to reach.

Consider these guidelines for cutting deadwood phrases:

  • Avoid constructions like if you want to, if you wish to, if you need to, if you would like to, in order to, and if you’re looking for. Use the infinitive (the to form of a verb) or rewrite the sentence.

Examples
Before
If you’d like to block explicit content for every search, go to Preferences.
After
To block explicit content for every search, go to Preferences.

Before
If you need more information, contact us.
After
For more information, contact us.

  • Replace you can with the infinitive and adjust the sentence as necessary.

Example
Before
You can change your avatar by clicking the Customize button.
After
To change your avatar, click the Customize button.

  • Replace you can choose to, you can decide to, and similar constructions with a direct verb.

Example
Before
You can choose to search for airlines, hotels, or car rental chains.
After
You can search for airlines, hotels, or car rental chains.
Better
Search for airlines, hotels, or car rental chains.

  • Replace expressions containing you will need to or you need to with you must or the imperative (the command form of the verb).

Example
Before
The first thing that you will need to do is choose a product category.
After
First, choose a product category.

  • Delete of the in constructions like any of the, some of the, one of the, each of the, many of the, most of the, a few of the, and several of the. Delete of in all of the and half of the.

Examples
Before
All of the services listed here are available to our members.
After
All the services listed here are available to our members.

Before
Each of the addresses you enter is saved in your account.
After
Each address you enter is saved in your account.

  • Delete make in constructions like make a copy, make a change, make a purchase, make use of, make an adjustment, make a decision, and make a correction and adjust the sentence as necessary.

Examples
Before
Make a copy of the document to save it for your records.
After
Copy the document to save it for your records.

Before
To make corrections to your order, contact our sales department.
After
To correct your order, contact our sales department.

Cut Length Not Clarity

Some small words that seem unnecessary to native English speakers may be cues that aid comprehension for people less fluent in English. If your audience is likely to include nonnative speakers, follow these guidelines to retain cues that add clarity:

  • Keep the word that, especially when it introduces a clause.

Example
Before
Put the car in park to make sure the wheels don’t roll on an incline and the Autodrive function doesn’t restart automatically.
After
Put the car in park to make sure that the wheels don’t roll on an incline and that the Autodrive function doesn’t restart automatically.

  • Repeat helping verbs such as can, could, may, must, might, should, would, and will.

Example
Before
Items you wish to return must be packaged in their original packaging and shipped to the following address.
After
Items you wish to return must be packaged in their original packaging and must be shipped to the following address.

  • Keep the word then in if-then constructions when a sentence is very long or complex. (Or, better: Rewrite the sentence so that it’s shorter.)

Example
Before
If your calendar order has not arrived by December 1 and you have not already been contacted by your representative about delays, go to your My Account page and click the Track Orders button.
After
If your calendar order has not arrived by December 1 and you have not already been contacted by your representative about delays, then go to your My Account page and click the Track Orders button.

For more writing strategies that add clarity for nonnative English speakers, see “Write for an International Audience” and “Standardize, Internationalize, or Localize?”

Get to the Good Stuff

Most readers aren’t interested in how or why a service or feature was developed. Give them the information they came to find, and spare them the details about what you did, how you did it, how hard it was to accomplish.

Eliminate unnecessary information, self-serving expressions, and the backstory, and get to key points quickly and efficiently. (Add a link to your company’s history for people who are interested.)

Examples
Before
Way back in 2002, when our founder was enjoying her thriving dog-walking business, she suddenly realized what a great idea it would be to offer emergency dog sitting to busy professionals who discovered at the last minute that they needed to leave town on business. We created our Dog Sitter Direct option to meet the needs of busy professionals and others who may require these emergency services.
After
Our Dog Sitter Direct option meets the needs of busy professionals and others who may require emergency and last-minute services.

Before
Click Create Account to create your account—or select Guest Account, an option that was developed so that shoppers who do not want to create an account today can still purchase products.
After
Click Create Account to create your account—or select Guest Account to purchase products today without creating an account.

 

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