No More [tl:dr] – Make Your Writing Stronger

By May 16, 2019Writing
say more write less

This post has come out of a great deal of editing work we’ve been doing over the past few weeks. It’s three winning approaches to tight, muscular content that will help you avoid tl:dr and say more. We’ll start at the idea level, then consider structure, and finish with the “fatty” words making your content slow.

We begin with a question.

Do you ever send emails or write blog posts and receive responses from the person you email that dictates that the person who read the email or blog post did not read the entire email or blog post or rather that the person simply responded indicating that the content was too long?

Whew. Raise your hand if you’re exhausted. That was 52 words. (Did you know that If a sentence reaches 43 words, reading comprehension drops to 10%? I don’t know about you, but I’d really like to capture the other 90% with my message.)

Let’s try again. Is your content too long? Five words. Same point.

Here’s the bad news. People skim more than we read.

Here’s the good news. Writing more simply and with brevity makes your writing more engaging.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a…machine [should have] no unnecessary parts.

– Strunk & White

How Great Writers Create Tight Content

Watchword is a team of specifically trained, deeply experienced writers and editors who love words and storytelling. We have seen time and again that plain language is easily read, to the point, and appropriate for the reader. But it takes skill and time to compose lean, hard-working content.

Here are a few of the ways we keep our content slim and strong. Some are at the idea level, some are at the structure level, and some are at the word level. They are noted below. We hope they’re helpful!

Idea level: Get to the point.

In the brainstorming process, start with three questions:

  1. Does it tell?
  2. Does it serve the content?
  3. Does it serve the reader?

Pro tip? Ask them again when you’re editing.

Structure Level: Write shorter sentences.

These lenses will help pull the clutter from your sentences.

  1. Use the active voice.
  2. Avoid redundancies.
  3. Eliminate filler phrases.
  4. Pick your adjectives and verbs carefully.
  5. Replace “it,” “that,” “them,” or “those” with the actual subject.
  6. Try using a period instead of a comma or semicolon to keep sentences short.
  7. Use bullet points.
  8. Topics with subheads.
  9. Use numbers (properly).
  10. Don’t avoid contractions.

Word Level: Delete ‘fatty’ phrases.

  1. At the end of the day.
  2. Going forward.
  3. In the process of.
  4. In the course of.
  5. Due to the fact that.
  6. For the reason that.
  7. Owing to the fact that.
  8. On the grounds that.
  9. In the near future.
  10. On a […] basis.
  11. In point of fact.

Writing simply doesn’t mean dumbing down your content. It means being clearer so your reader doesn’t have to work hard to grasp your message. Verbose does not equate to smart or trustworthy. At the end of the day…You can make your content work harder: Write less. Say more.

Last tip? Read your content aloud. If you trip on the words or get bored by the message, other people will too.

Challenge yourself. Can you write something in 5 words that you might initially use 52 to convey? We’re here to help.


Watchword produces intelligence-driven branding and content that works efficiently across many channels to help businesses articulate who they are and what they do to the people who matter most. We listen carefully, communicate thoughtfully, respond consistently, and deliver absolutely – that is our rally cry – our watchword. What’s yours? We’d love to hear your story.

Rachelle Kuramoto

Author Rachelle Kuramoto

Rachelle is Watchword Brand principal. She has worked as a brand and content strategist, writer, and market intelligence director for 20 years. She is an experienced and award-winning professional who balances creative and business acumen to support projects, primarily in the B2B sector. Her objective in every engagement is to articulate what makes the client distinctive and sustainable in their market and with the stakeholders who matter most. She'd love to hear your story. Grab some time and a listening ear at rachelle@watchwordbrand.com.

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