How to Cut Your Writing Down to Size“I apologize for writing such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” – Mark Twain

It’s debatable what the actual quote is and whether it is actually Mark Twain’s, but either way it’s a great statement of the truth. It does indeed take longer — much longer — to write a short letter, blog post, essay, resume, etc. than it does to write a long one.

I have frequently taken two-page resumes and cut them down to one without loss of content. Five-page single-spaced personal statements reduce to 500 words. Remarkable right?

An example: I worked with a social media marketing expert to create the “perfect” blog post for LinkedIn. The original draft was 5,504 characters long — 1,777 characters over the LinkedIn limit!

In 15 minutes, we had edited the blog down to size.

How did we do it? Here are some tips to help you make the grade:

  1. Look for anything that could be characterized as “window dressing.” That’s the stuff you write around the important points! Find the nugget and stick to it!
  1. Are you repeating yourself? Stop! Once is enough. We get it.
  1. Stay organized. Often the source of rambling language is simply lack of organization and focus.
  1. Ask yourself about each and every sentence: How many words can I remove from this sentence and retain its meaning? Go ahead… remove those extra words! You can do it! (Yes, there are extra words in that last sentence. Can you find them?)
  1. If you’re really in a bind, remove or reduce the space between bullet points or paragraphs. Only take this drastic measure as a last resort. White space is a prized commodity, especially in a blog or resume!
  1. If you remove something and your message no longer transmits, put it back in! There’s always somewhere else you can cut out.

The process takes time, but it’s worth it. Your newly trimmed writing will be snappy, punchy and geared to today’s short attention spans! If you are reading this sentence, I’ve followed my own advice.

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