screenshot of short email
Writing / Editing

Short and Sweet

Want to get your message across better?

You don’t need specialized editing or grammar software, you can tighten up your written work with any word processing program. 

I’m getting lots of editing work these days (could be because my answer to those requests is always YES PLEASE! MORE! MORE!) and thought I would share my simple secret trick. It’s useful for long documents where multiple reviews get tedious – I use it as a starting point to clear the clutter so there’s less to sift through when I get into deeper edits. 

The example I’m using is an email I got yesterday. It is 378 words. Since the writer is asking me to give them my time, a shorter ask might be better! 

BUT. I gotta say, I find the extra words and details in the example endearing. They give a sense of enthusiasm and appreciation. I go through the technical details to land at a 73 word message below. I’m not saying you need to shorten your messages, I’m saying, if you want to, here’s how. You do you.

The original

screenshot of lengthy email
378 words

What’s the magic tip?

Use the “Find” feature in whatever program you’re using.

  1. Find “very” and “really” and similar words – you know your writing, what words do you overuse? Delete them.

    screenshot of search for "very"
    Find and delete.
  2. Find “ly” to show you all the adverbs. Delete most of them, maybe finding a better verb instead.

    screenshot of search for "ly"
    Most of these go. The only one that stays is July 🙂
  3. Find and delete “however”s and “although”s. I also deleted “In order to”, “actually”, and “by any chance” in this example.

    screenshot of search for "however"
    Find and delete.
  4. Find “by”: Many of these will be passive sentence constructions (not in this example). Change them into active voice.
  5. Simplify verb constructions by searching and deleting “have” where it’s not needed (I also deleted “has” and “had” in places).

    screenshot of search for the word "have"
    Some of these stay, but the first and fourth gotta go.
  6. Simplify phrase constructions by searching for “that” and deleting it – along with the whole phrase if you can.

Three hundred words lighter

Using “Find” alone, I eliminated a hundred words from the email. I then removed the unnecessary details (you don’t need a computer to identify those!), and here is the 73 word message.

screenshot of short email
Ta Da

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