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Sometimes, when you fix one problem... you create another.

When Google introduced the Panda update in 2011, it helped steer the SEO industry away from link farms, keyword stuffing, and cloaking—and toward longer-form, "helpful" content.

It was (probably) the lesser of two evils, but it brought its own set of problems. (A bit like vaping.)

Copywriters were asked to write 1,000-word blog posts, often on topics they knew little about. Instead of saying the most in the least amount of space, their default mode became "how can I pad that out to meet the word count?"

As writers, that goes against everything we're taught. Thankfully, Google has (for the most part) become a little more sophisticated in what it deems useful content. But more important: users don't want waffle. So getting your point across succinctly is essential for capturing and retaining your audience's attention.

That doesn't mean you can't add color or flavor, but don't take 50 words to say what you can in 20.

Here are nine tips for achieving conciseness.

1. Do your prep. When you've fully researched your topic, you'll usually end up with more to say than you can fit in—forcing you to go back, edit out the fluff, and really think about what's going to make the cut. If you've written a 1,000-word article that needs to be 600 words, chances are it'll be a better piece when you get there.

Similarly, if you've planned out the structure of your piece in advance, you're less likely to meander or jump back and forth between topics.

2. Every sentence should say something new. The easiest way to be concise in your writing is to ensure every sentence or paragraph offers something different. Merely rewording the previous point irritates the reader (it's something you see a lot in AI-generated content).

When you repeat yourself, your writing loses its pace, and readers begin to lose the thread of where you're going.

If you take only one of these nine points on board, let it be this one.

3. Use active rather than passive voice. Active voice typically makes your writing easier to understand, less complicated, and more succinct. Sentences usually start with the action—for example, "write more concisely to help readers understand your content" rather than "when content is written more concisely, readers can better understand it."

If using active voice doesn't come naturally to you, writing tools (such as Grammarly) are good at picking up passive voice and suggesting alternative wording.

4. Eliminate redundant pairs. Redundant pairs are two words commonly used together that have roughly the same meaning. My least favorite is "each and every." As well as being unnecessary, it just feels sickly (a bit like the aforementioned vaping).

5. Avoid filler words. Doing so isn't going to dramatically reduce your word count, but it can have a big impact on how your writing reads. "That" is a bugbear of mine. For example, I could say, "I think that it's important to write concisely," but "I think it's important to write concisely" does the same job and sounds less clunky.

6. Consider contractions. Another way to avoid sounding clunky and childish is to embrace contractions. Sometimes people feel they shouldn't use them, especially within a B2B setting, but that's an outdated view. Using contractions just helps your copy flow better, which can only be a good thing.

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7. Delete unnecessary modifiers. A modifier describes or qualifies another part of a sentence. Whether you keep a modifier or not is a judgment call, but simply being conscious of them is a good start. For example, my original title was "How to Write More Concisely," but I decided the "More" wasn't necessary.

8. Remove anything that doesn't add something. Challenge yourself to remove what you can from a paragraph or sentence without changing its meaning. If it doesn't add something, whether new information or a bit of personality or humor, let it go. Be ruthless.

If doing so makes you feel more comfortable, copy and paste your "finished" article into a separate doc, then get trimming.

9. Read it aloud. When you think you're nearly done, read your text aloud. If any sentences are still a bit clunky or wordy, you'll spot them. (Be warned, this step can take a little getting used to!).

* * *

If you've spent hours crafting content, you might feel reluctant to spend more time cutting it in half, but brevity is a seriously underrated writing skill, and your copy will benefit as a result.

More Resources on Writing

How to Make Your Content Work Harder: Seven Fatty Phrases to Avoid in Your Writing

The Writing GPS: A Writing Framework That Makes Your Writing Ridiculously Good

Seven Score and Seven Years Ago: Writing Lessons We Can Learn From Lincoln's Masterpiece

29 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills and Avoid Content Mediocrity [Infographic]

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image of Kerry Sheahan

Kerry Sheahan is account director at Browser Media, which specializes in content, PR, and SEO.

LinkedIn: Kerry Sheahan