4 Creative Exercises for Writing Concise Copy
Suffering from sudden bouts of wordiness…
Feeling the urge to go rogue with random tangents…
Not being able to finish a sentence without taking multiple breaths…
These are all signs of an awful illness that plagues business owners who write their own content…a disease so dangerous that it’s been known to…
- Decrease the copy readability score.
- Lower the number of views and subscribers that a company’s blog receives.
- Negatively impact the number of sales generated via sales and online copy.
So, what is this mysterious illness that everyone who produces content is bound to suffer from at least once in his or her lifetime?
That’s right! A bad case of word vomit is powerful enough to derail even the strongest of content writers.
But here’s the good news…
Much like getting a flu shot every winter, there are many things you can do to protect yourself against this horrible malady.
And it all begins with putting creative exercises into your writing routine that will enable you to write more concisely.
The last thing we want to do is keep you at risk for getting infected. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into a few creative exercises that will help keep your content clean, clear, and concise.
Concise Writing Exercise #1 – The Haiku
The Haiku is short form of poetry that comes to us all the way from Japan.
The text of the poem is traditionally only 17 syllables, which are arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5.
Here’s an example of a Haiku written by Basho Matsuo, one of the most famous Haiku poets in Japan.
An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
Notice how in 3 lines, Basho Matsuo was able to tell a story.
The key here is simplicity. It’s all about figuring out how to communicate your message in as few words as possible–an element essential to avoiding word vomit and crafting a clean and concise marketing message.
For instance, I could write a lengthy job description of what I do as a copywriter. But instead, I challenged myself to pick out the most important details of what my job entails, and I wrote this little Haiku.
A keyboard in hand…
I craft stories that sell things,
Clients sales will rise.
From there, I decided to see if I could get even more concise and challenged myself to communicate a message in even fewer words.
I came up with this little Haiku which I’ve titled, “How I Feel about Coming Back to Work after a Holiday Break.”
No no no no no
No no no no no no no
No no no no no
Pretty clear and concise right? Oh, and also, I’m totally kidding…it’s a joy to be back at my desk typing away 🙂
Goal of exercise: Train your brain to pick out what’s important so you can condense your content.
Concise Writing Exercise #2 – Time Freewriting
Freewriting is a wonderful technique that allows you to type (or handwrite if you like the old-fashioned feeling of a pen in your hands) for a specific period of time without having to worry about spelling, grammar, or following an outline.
This is important to practice as it’s so easy to get hung up on the details of the content you’re writing.
And when you get hung up on the details, it’s easy to overthink your copy, which often leads to overwritten, clunky content.
Here’s how this exercise works…
- Pick a general topic. For instance, if you’re writing a blog about dogs, come prepared to write about that topic.
- Set a timer. We recommend you start with 15-20 minutes on your timer.
- Write without a filter. That’s right. Don’t pay attention to content structure, word usage, spelling, grammar, etc. Just write. We promise you’ll have time to burn the evidence of using that misplaced modifier before the grammar police show up at your door.
- Cut your copy in half. This is the most important step in the process. After your time has run out, read through your copy and do your best to reduce the word count by 50%.
While cutting down your copy, it should become easy to see where you added in unnecessary information.
During this exercise, most people will be able to see a pattern of using unnecessary descriptions, wordiness, or sentence fragments.
Goal of exercise: Train your brain to quickly identify what’s important to keep in your content and get rid of everything else that’s simply unnecessary junk.
Concise Writing Exercise #3 – Edit Another Person’s Content
Writing your own content is both a blessing and a curse.
The blessing is that you have the power to communicate a message exactly the way you want it communicated.
You get to be subjective, and as a business owner, it’s important that your brand voice is representative of you…not Larry the guy who lives in the loft apartment 3 doors down.
However, there is a flip side. And that flip side is that it’s not always easy to find your own flaws (like wordiness) in the content you write.
That makes creating clean, concise copy quite a challenge!
And sadly, it really doesn’t matter how intelligent you are or how many years you’ve been writing content.
It’s a scientific fact that we humans are always going to struggle with this problem.
Don’t take it from us though…here’s what expert psychologist Tom Stafford has to say on the matter…
“When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high-level task. And as with all high level-tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas).
We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases. Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”
So, how can we override this problem so we can become better writers? Easy. Edit someone else’s content.
Stafford goes on to explain that…
“When we’re reading other people’s work, this helps us arrive at meaning faster by using less brain power. When we’re proofreading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent.
The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.”
There you have it. Reading and editing other people’s work gives you the opportunity to spot mistakes that you don’t want to replicate in your own copy.
Once you spot these mistakes, it becomes easier to NOT replicate them in your own writing.
Goal of exercise: Learn from others’ content writing mistakes. Take what you learned and apply it to your own writing.
Concise Writing Exercise #4 – Use an Online Program to Practice Concise Writing
We’ve all heard it a million times, and it’s true…practice makes perfect.
Sometimes the best way to help train yourself to write clean, concise copy is by practicing writing clean, concise copy.
And thanks to modern day technology, there are thousands of tools online that are accessible to help us refine our craft.
One tool we love in particular is the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
This virtual lab contains hundreds of exercises (from grammar to punctuation and everything in between).
And believe it or not, it even has a lab that focuses on exercises that condition you to become a more concise writer!
Click here to visit the site and start working on some exercises!
Goal of exercise: Train your brain to recognize and correct copy that is unnecessarily wordy.
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