Brevity is one of the most important dimensions of good writing – but one of the hardest to achieve. There are three main reasons why:
1. It takes more thought to distill your ideas and find just the right words to express them
2. It takes longer. As Blaise Pascal once famously wrote: “I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short”.
3. We get attached to what we’ve written. This is the hardest one of all. Once the words are down on the page it can be a real challenge to cut them out again.
The only way through this is to keep focused on your reader and drop the emotional attachment to your own scintillating prose. Chris Garrett has an entertaining post on this (guest writing at Copyblogger) challenging us with the killer question “are you in love with your own writing?”
If the answer’s yes (and let’s be honest, it probably is for most of us) that means you have to make the time to make it short.
If you can’t distill your message down succinctly, then try harder. Every minute of additional effort on your part reduces the effort on the part of the reader, and that leads to more successful copy.
Brevity doesn’t have to mean a short piece of writing. It does mean cutting out the excess words. As a reader commented here recently: long enough to make your point, but no longer. And as Chris would say: yes, people will read long copy, but not unless they can see the reason why – and not if they are already asleep…