When you work with words, KISS – or “Keep It Simple, Stupid” – is a great rule to live by. Turning the complex into the simple is a big part of copywriting. I love being presented with a long, complicated text, often riddled with technical and insider terms, and turning it into something simpler. Something anyone could understand.
And the more complicated the subject matter, the more important it is to make sure that the words used aren’t a barrier to the message that’s being communicated. It’s not dumbing down – simplicity is an art. Short words are often better than long, and everyday words are always a better choice than jargon.
Start by losing unnecessary adjectives and getting rid of any filler or repetition – it’s not always easy, but you’ll find your message is understood far better without the added weight.
“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” Dr Seuss.
Bullet points can be a helpful tool to get information across without a large expanse of text. Try these:
- Keep your sentences short: an average of 15 to 20 words is ideal, but shorter is often better.
- That said, don’t keep every sentence the same sort of length – variety will make your writing more interesting to read. Mix it up!
- Be clear and don’t try to be clever. Think how you would say it out loud to a friend, then write as if you’re talking to your reader.
- Stick to one thought per sentence. If there’s more than one main idea, split it up.
- Use the active voice, unless there’s a good reason to choose the passive. “Tenfour will design your brochure” is stronger, shorter and easier to read than “Your brochure will be designed by Tenfour”.
Writing – especially business writing – shouldn’t be intimidating. Keep it simple and your readers will thank you.
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