Blog | Oct 7, 2011 | 8 Comments

[on writing: cut it out!]

I admit that it’s the end of the day and I’m tired. But I just read a guest blog on a site that usually has very good content—but I barely understand a word. I got lost in the tech jargon and pretentious language.

The first sentence was 44 words long.

I had an interest in the topic. And the author claimed to be a respected social media expert. But his first sentence was 44 words long. The next was 36. A whole paragraph was gone, just like that. And so was my attention span.

That first sentence included the phrase “are becoming more and more aware of.”  FYI, more is more. You don’t need more and more.

Even the title of this post was too long. Titles are key real estate, so here’s a hint. To grab attention, don’t explain the entire topic. Just describe what’s at stake. And do it quickly before we lose interest.

Remember when you had to sound academic? That was back in college, right?

Those days are over now, unless you write for the New England Journal of Medicine. (Or you write government reports as I occasionally do…) This is just blogging and we’re all very busy people. Please respect our time.

This post actually reminded me of why I like blogging.

I can be conversational, informal, and even irreverent. Whatever I choose to write about, I should be brief. I should use simple, clear language. I should incorporate lots of subheads and bullet points. And the occasional fragment. I wish more clients would pay me to write like this!

Try something for me. Write an entire article with sentences of a dozen words or less.

I just did. It felt good.

Image credit: Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
(Great new source for photos I found through BlogAid.)

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

8 Comments

Ah, another language ranter! Thanks Claire for this post. I stare at my RSS feeds daily and just shake my head. Dense prose, overly elaborate explanations, jargon, words that should never be seen outside graduate school seminars. What has my attention right now is the word “maximize.” It’s everywhere. I looked up some words that mean the same thing: amplify, augment, balloon, beef up, boost, build up, escalate, exaggerate, expand, flesh out, magnify, overestimate, pad, raise, spread, stretch, widen. Some words just become verbal tics and it is too much trouble to look for better ones.

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Joanne, I’m glad you share my sentiments. But your comment made me laugh. When I was a technology marketing writer, I had a list of words I had to use, no matter what the company or product. “Maximize” was one of them, along with amplify, magnify, power, performance, speed, etc. It did really get redundant.

[Reply]

Joanne Fritz

10/7/2011

Your comments apply to more than Blogging. They also apply to web site content (especially “home page”) and most marketing material.

(sorry…that last sentence was 14 words)

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Oh, and web content is the worst candidate for long sentences!

[Reply]

Lisa

10/7/2011

mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

But, writers love to write (where did I hear that? 🙂 huummm,,,,). Many are passionate about words. I would quibble w/Joanne a tad. Every word, even similar ones, convey nuanced meanings. If you are passionate about a topic, you want to communicate those nuances.

I expect scholarly writing to be verbose (the passion thing & no training in writing. Plus, to be accepted as a scholar, you have to throw jargon around.). Too many bloggers fall into the trap. I wonder why? Poor training? Big egos? Passion? I try not to assume.

Pithy writing is hard, especially when you know a lot about the subject & back to that passion thing. I guess the bottom line is discipline is NOT for sissies. 🙂 (I think one sentence was 16 words 🙂 I can write longer if you like 🙂 LOL)

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Peg, thank you for understanding that shorter is harder. I try to tell clients this all the time! I used to write in a very academic way myself. I still fight against it. “Physician, heal thyself!”

[Reply]

Margaret (Peggy) Herrman

10/7/2011

Thanks, Claire, I’ll leverage this post to optimize my written communications, both in electronic channels and traditional, hard copy media, to amplify the efficacy of my prose.

Just kidding!

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Love ya, Anne! But I know I have written a lot of sentences like this in my career. It might be fun for us to find our worst sentences in old samples. I am sure I could easily embarrass myself.

[Reply]

Anne Janzer

10/7/2011

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