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October 15, 2014
Brevity in Writing: Boxers or Briefs?
 
As a proofreader, I enjoy reading all types of writing — from a paragraph on the back of a cereal box to a 300-page novel.

Effective writing, regardless of the length, utilizes the concept of brevity. A well-written, 300-page novel may actually be brief. The author just needs 300 pages to tell the story accurately. The excessive version might have been 500 pages. Brevity isn’t confined to word count or page length; it’s a writing skill that determines what information is crucial and what unnecessary details should be omitted. A lengthy piece of writing does not necessarily mean that it is better or more profound.

Here are some writing tips that will help you understand and utilize the concept of brevity.

Beauty and the brief.
The question that I pose in the headline of this article relates to men’s underwear as a way to illustrate my view of brevity. Form-fitting, supportive briefs are analogous to strong writing. Be specific and use bold descriptions. Boxers are loose, vague, and representative of weak writing. This confusing style lacks a clear picture of what needs to be revealed. Main points are difficult to decipher because the text is cluttered with extra material. You can inform and engage your reader while maintaining brevity.

Don’t make your readers guess.
The key to clear, concise writing is to state your main point in the beginning of your text. Be explicit. Oftentimes, writers like to “tip-toe” around what they’re trying to say, leave the reader hanging, and only get around to what they’re really trying to communicate at the end of the document. This is a “save-the-best-for-last” mentality. Other writers have no intention of making a definitive point. They want the reader to infer their message. Neither of these techniques produces persuasive writing. A proofreader will help ensure that your writing explains and strengthens a precise topic. The process of proofreading enables you to get a sense of whether someone else understands what you intended to express.

Keep it fresh and interesting.
There’s a reason why resumes should be only one page: intrigue. Take a tip from resume writing and practice using short but informative descriptions. Your goal is to hold the reader’s interest so that she will follow up in the way that you desire. With a resume, the brief points about your work history should prompt a potential employer to schedule an interview with you. (Save specific details for talking points during the interview.) If you’re writing a blog, inspire a reader to subscribe or sign up for your newsletter.

Masters of brevity strike a balance between satisfying their audience so that they’re not teasing their readers and leave out anything that dilutes their agenda.

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Stefanie Flaxman corrects business, marketing, and educational documents in 24 hours. She’s a writing consultant and the founder of Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services. Check out her free report and subscribe to Small Business Writing Consultant Blog to get free business writing advice. Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter!

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