Skip to content
3 keys from a keyboard that makes for better writing

Quick Tip: 3 keys to better writing

Are you struggling to achieve a crisp, business-like writing style?

Here are three keys to better writing.

They’re all right there on your keyboard, and using them is free.

Delete key


Delete key
: Cut unnecessary words

 

And replace longer words with shorter words.

Here’s one trick for doing that.

Whenever you see similar terms joined with “and” or “or” these are called “redundant pairs.” Pick the stronger or more specific and drop the weaker or more generic. For example:

  • “verbose or run-on sentences” = “run-on sentences”
  • “humid and muggy afternoons” = “muggy afternoons”
  • “large and bulky packages” = “bulky packages”
  • “authoritarian and stern leaders” = “stern leaders”

Now re-examine the last bullet above. Notice how “stern” has one syllable, while “authoritarian” has five.

As long as it conveys more-or-less the same idea, pick the word with fewer syllables.

Period key
Period key
: Break longer sentences in two

 

Q: How long is too long for a sentence?

A: Any sentence you can’t read out loud without taking another breath.

Think of each period as a pause for you to take a breath. If you haven’t seen a period for a while, you need one.

Another simple trick is to stick to one thought per sentence.

If you notice a second thought trying to sneak in, stop it in its tracks with a period.

Enter key
Enter
key: Break longer paragraphs in two

 

Q: How long is too long for a paragraph?

A: Any chunk of text so long your eyes want to skip it.

Remember, 90% of white papers are scanned on the screen.

B2B prospects don’t savor every word like they’re reading a Jane Austen novel.

They skim, scan, and skip their way down the screen. Don’t you?

To sum up

Use fewer words. Use shorter words. Use shorter sentences. And use shorter paragraphs.

Decades of research show these three keys add up to easier reading.

 


For more quick tips like this, subscribe to my free newsletter

About Gordon Graham

Worked on 300+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. And named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

If you liked this post...

Wikipedia logo

Quick Tip: Don’t start your research with Google

Yes, you need a lot of research for a white paper. No, you don't want...
read a white paper out loud

Quick Tip: Read a draft to your reviewers

Quick Tip: Read a draft to your reviewers Did you ever work with a SME...
polishing a white paper draft

Quick Tip: My favourite way to polish a draft

Read it out loud. That quickly reveals any awkward phrases or run-on sentences. To me,...

Leave a Comment





This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.