I’m a fan of writing to a specific word count and this is a vital piece of information for anyone producing professional documents. Are you writing a 50-100 word news piece? Or a one-pager briefing report? A 3,000 word essay or a 10,000 word dissertation? The same principles apply in terms of conveying what you need to get across as succinctly but with as much depth and breadth as possible and/or required.
If you’re struggling getting your work cut to size, try these ten tips:
- Calculate the percentage to be cut – save up to 10% by techniques such as removing superfluous words; over 10% you’ll need to rephrase, rewrite or delete judiciously
- Read your draft through slowly and check whether every word, sentence and paragraph makes a relevant point and remove any padding
- Ensure you haven’t repeated yourself and if so, delete, integrate or synthesise
- Look out for phrases of two or more words which could be replaced with a single word
- Review quotes and ensure their content isn’t repeated elsewhere or if they could be paraphrased more succinctly
- Check the introduction and conclusion to ensure you have focused on the key points in a concise and insightful way
- Hunt down words that have no value – do you need every instance of however, although, but etc?
- Break sentences down into shorter ones to cut out linking phrases
- Can any background or supplementary information be moved to an appendix without impacting on understanding in the main work?
- Use bullet points, tables, infographics or diagrams to convey information in a less wordy way
BTW, if you’re counting – the above is 298 words (not counting the headline)