Mobile screens are the ultimate immolation of the paradigm of literature. Where several centuries of English Lit Luminaries have worked to perfect the art of the narrative, this new technology has dismantled the absorption and enjoyment of the best of the English language and turned it into an infinite series of bullet-point presentations. If you can’t say it in a soundbite or the six-second duration of a Vine you can’t say it at all, therefore welcome to the world of the profoundly shallow. Never before have so many people been exposed to so many different categories of information to such a superficial level. Since it’s your lot to write concisely for your email marketing text… you might as well excel at it. Merchant Of Venice in Haiku
Go ahead! Take Shakespeare’s Merchant Of Venice and condense it into a single Haiku without missing anything:
A debt paid by flesh
Exactly a pound nearest to the heart
Shylock’s cruelty addressed by Duke
Sorry, but that really isn’t a true replacement. Not only are we lacking Portia’s famous exhortation that “mercy is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes” but “minor” characters such as Antonio, Bassanio, and the rest of the crew are not surprisingly absent. The online marketer is faced with this dilemma on a daily basis. Your brand story is far more detailed than could ever be placed into 17 words on three lines but that’s the task you’ve been assigned and there is little that anyone can do to change that.
Most of us don’t have Poet Laureate status
Since there are few Haiku masters working in online marketing, and most of us don’t have Poet Laureate status anywhere but in our own minds, we are faced with the troublesome and problematic question of how to condense a concept which ordinarily would take entire paragraphs, pages, or even chapters to begin to explain so that the customer could have a grasp of the subject in fewer words than are generally exchanged in a drive through burger restaurant transaction.
6 techniques to condense your word count
Apply these six techniques to your online brand writing and you’ll find that your word economy rate will be considerably improved.
- Negative reliance. When you’re expressing a concept in a negative form you’re adding extra words which can be eliminated by opting for the positive expression: “If you don’t wear shoes don’t come in…”
- Overlong phrasing. Using an entire phrase where a single word would do just as well is one of the most typical errors committed in condensed writing: “due to the point that, given the fact that…”
- Overused qualifiers. In your quest to say more with fewer words you will find that you can cut a couple of words per sentence by chopping the qualifying terms: “really, basically, actually, probably, definitely…”
- Prepositional phrases. Few aspects of your writing can be as word-stuffing and reader-confusing as prepositional phrases which begin with: “for, at, through, over, in…”
- Redundant pairs. If you realize that the first word in a pair has just about the same meaning as the second, flip a coin and choose one: “each and every, first and foremost, full and complete…”
- Unnecessary modifiers. If the meaning of a particular word already implies the modifying term, then it is unnecessary and can be trimmed: “anticipate in advance, practically virtually…”
Don’t provide generic information to specialists
Another woeful example of brand writing which prolongs the word count to an unacceptable level is the penchant of marketers to provide generic information when writing for a specialized audience. Let’s assume that you are writing an email newsletter which is targeted to the segment of your subscription list which is composed of certified programmers and developers. Do you really need to start off with “C++ is a general purpose compiled object-oriented programming language…”
Those of us who attended English Lit classes when tablets were something Moses brought down from a mountain may suffer paroxysms of revulsion at today’s “tell-it-to-me-in-two-seconds” writing style but when we’re trying to capture a customer’s attention quickly, we truly have little choice!
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