Are your sentence lengths starting to feel bloated? Starting to feel like your writing is a steady diet of junk? Maybe it’s time you put your writing through a little physical fitness to trim the fat.
Here are three ways to put your writing through a workout routine. The best part about this routine? No monthly fees. No memberships. No cardio required. No sweat. Sounds like a breeze? Give it a try and measure your results.
Like any workout routine, this one takes time and dedication to achieve results.
Start cutting out the fat
Two words are better than one. Example: You can usually replace a lot of with more. Look for words with fewer syllables to replace long-winded words. Example: Can you substitute about for approximately? Eliminate redundant two-word phrases, where only one word is needed to say the same thing: totally destroyed, completely gutted, fully engulfed, etc. Don’t think of writing as requiring words on steroids. Big, fancy words seldom impress readers. They do the opposite. They check a dictionary. Or shout really short words (#$@!^%) at you! Start cutting out the jargon, too. Does a politician really throw his/her hat into the ring? Jargon is like writing in code to readers. Use plain English.
Stop gorging on big sentences
Extra long sentence lengths have become an epidemic for many writers. You cause readers to drift. Or give up. Keep sentence lengths to 10 or 12 words on average. One-word sentence work too. Really? Yes. Staggered sentences lengths maintain reader focus. Readers need to catch their breaths too. Short bursts give them that chance. Sentences of 20, 30 or 40 words exhaust readers. Always read your copy out loud. Is your own writing leaving you gasping for air. One of the biggest culprits of long sentences is the word and. Often, you can replace and with a period. See if it works.
Vary your routines
It’s easy to fall into habits. Perhaps you use the same word way too much. Or maybe you have a habit of starting sentences with the same phrase. Perhaps you have that diarrhea (you use the word that many many times in your writing). You’ll only begin to notice patterns if you start re-reading your past work. Habits accumulate over time. We rarely ever realize we’re falling into habits. If you allow your writing to fall into predictable habits, you risk roboticizing your work. That’s how your writing starts to lazy.