How To Make Your Writing Shorter (10 Tips)

By: Rafal Reyzer
Updated: Oct 4th, 2023

how to make your writing shorter - featured image

To enhance your writing’s impact, it’s crucial to trim the excess.

Whether in business communications, technical guides, or even in novels and poems, brevity can bolster clarity and engagement. Let’s explore ways to condense your content without sacrificing its essence.

10 Tips on How to Make Your Writing Shorter:

1. Get To The Point Quickly

One pitfall writers often fall into is what I dub TMI-NR: “Too Much Information with No Relevance.” This is especially evident in business or grant proposals. Writers sometimes pack in excessive details, believing it will impress. But regardless of how impressive your credentials are, brevity always trumps verbosity. Ever come across the concept of an elevator pitch? It’s the art of pitching an idea in the short duration of an elevator ride. In such a constrained time, would you unload all your knowledge or focus on the key selling points? This same logic applies whether you’re crafting sales letters or manuals. Aim for concise content packed with value. For longer pitches or portfolios, consider attaching them as separate documents.

get to the point quickly - make your writing shorter

2. Eschew Redundancies

Another common pitfall that makes a writer’s composition longer than necessary is redundancy. The saying “write as you speak” is not entirely true. You can’t always taper what comes out of your mouth when speaking in public or telling a story, but you can always edit what you wrote. Stating the same gist in one sentence or paragraph may be forgivable when we say it, but it’s a different story when you set it in ink. To make your writing shorter, you have to do away with redundancies. Let me give you an example: “While I was mountain-climbing, I was startled by a deer that crossed my path during my ascent to the summit of Mount Rainier.” (23 words) If I’m voicing the story, you wouldn’t mind (or even notice) the redundancy. But, when I write it, you may see that “mountain-climbing” means the same as “ascent to the summit of Mount Rainier”. So, this can be written as: “I was startled by a deer that crossed my path while climbing Mount Rainier.” (14 words) It’s the same statement, but nine words shorter.

3. Break Your Piece Down Into Smaller, Manageable Parts

This principle applies when there is a minimum number of words you must meet in your literary piece (remember school essays?). Why am I including this in the mix? As a blogger, I learned that articles that are at least 1,000 words long fare much better than shorter ones in Google ranking. It is a paradox for me as a writer who knows that shorter articles are better for readers but not for search engines. That is why we in the blogging business must always be mindful of SEO when producing content. So, instead of writing lengthy explanations or descriptions for, let’s say three main points, spread out your word ammunition to around seven points. This way, you please the search engine gods without giving the impression that your article is a long read.

shorter paragraphs - how to make your writing shorter

4. Write in Active Instead of Passive Voice

Your writing will be shorter if you use an active voice. Let me rephrase that: Using an active voice makes your writing shorter. See the difference? The original sentence in a passive voice has 11 words, while the second one in an active voice only uses 8. According to Merriam-Webster, the subject does the action in active voice, as expressed by the verb. In contrast, the subject is acted on or affected by the verb’s action in the passive voice. You need to use linking verbs such as will be, was, were, is, are, etc. to make your sentences grammatically correct in passive voice. Thus, more words.

5. Do Away with Unnecessary Transitions

You can skip transition words without disrupting the flow of your paragraphs. While sometimes you need to use indeed, moreover, furthermore, then, and other transition words in your prose, you can also delete them with no adverse effects on your composition. For example: “Moreover, the orchestra gave a rousing encore to the delight of the crowd.” You can readily delete the word moreover from this sentence without changing its full meaning.

6. Omit Needless Words

There are words you can chip away from sentences without changing their meanings. From the top of my head, words such as very, pretty, that, though, even, or they can be systematically removed to reduce your word count. For instance, “it’s pretty much the same” does not differ from “it’s the same”, except it has two more words. “That” is another word that you can easily delete in many sentences without compromising their integrity. For instance: “Girls that sport long hair are more attractive to boys,” (10 words) means the same as “Girls sporting long hair are more attractive to boys,” (9 words).

omiy needless words - make your writing shorter

7. Condense Multi-word Sentences

Carve out the fat from sentences to make them leaner. During the editing phase, or even when you’re still writing, look out for wordy sentences you can destroy. Example: “During his campaign, the hopeful candidate makes it a point to knock on every door in each village he visits.” (23 words) This can be condensed to “During his campaign, the candidate knocks on every door in each village he visits.” (14 words)

8. Cut Unnecessary Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words that connect two autonomous statements in one sentence. Based on that description, you’d think they’re as essential as the couplings used to connect two pipes. In short, they are not. You would even think that omitting and, or, but, and other conjunctions don’t mean a lot. Anyway, it’s just one measly 2 or 3-letter word you eliminated. What you don’t see is that you are also breaking down one long sentence into two shorter ones. In most cases, this makes your statement easier to read and digest. Example: The platoon obliviously entered the enemy’s territory that night, and the men were immediately ambushed by snipers and heavy artillery. You could rewrite it as The platoon obliviously entered the enemy’s territory that night. They were immediately ambushed by snipers and heavy artillery. Shorter sentences improve readability. Use them.

9. Use Contractions

With contractions, you’re effectively merging two words into one. This wouldn’t be hard, as we use these contractions in every casual English conversation we have. I’ve already used three of them in this section alone (you’re, wouldn’t, and I’ve). Even in English-language movies, you’ll notice that the characters always use contractions in their dialogues. The scriptwriters and directors know the actors wouldn’t sound right to the viewers if they spoke in an old-fashioned manner (without contractions).

Other examples include:

  • Cannot = Can’t
  • Do not = Don’t
  • Does not = Doesn’t
  • Could not = Couldn’t
  • Was not = Wasn’t
  • It was = ‘Twas
  • Where is = Where’s
  • Let us = Let’s
  • It will = It’ll
  • Could have = Could’ve
  • Who is = Who’s

10. Slay Unnecessary Adverbs and Adjectives

These “Ad” parts of the language have a common role in life: they are modifiers. Adverbs do it to Verbs, while Adjectives do it to Nouns. Sure, they are essential to narratives such as novels, short stories, and biographies. But sometimes, you need to cut them to make a more concise yet bolder statement. The trick is to use stronger verbs and nouns to get your message across. This allows you to drop adverbs and adjectives that are weighing down your composition. Example: The rigid learning program will last for six months and it strongly guarantees that your coding skills will tremendously improve within the said period. (24 words) This can be rewritten as “The six-month course guarantees to improve your coding skills in that period.” (13 words). You’ll notice that the statement remains strong without adverbs and adjectives.

cut adverbs and adjectives - make your writing shorter

Wrap Up

To put it into perspective, the average reading speed for adults is a little over 250 words per minute. While their average attention span when reading an article is about 5 to 7 minutes. So, unless you can write something really exciting that’ll keep them engaged beyond the said window, it’s advisable to conform to the norm. Accept the fact that often, you need to chisel your piece to make it more palatable to your readers. Next up, you may want to explore a guide on how to overcome writers anxiety.

Rafal Reyzer

Rafal Reyzer

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time blogger, educator, digital marketer, freelance writer, editor, and content manager with 10+ years of experience. I started RafalReyzer.com to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to become a proficient writer and achieve freedom through online creativity. My site is a one-stop shop for writers, digital marketers, and content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. Dive into my journey here, and don't miss out on my free PDF guide 80+ AI marketing tools.