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December 19, 2009
Question From a Proofreader: 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. Often times 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 leaving out anything that dilutes their agenda.

Still not sure what to keep and what to toss? I’m happy to help if you need a proofreader to polish and perfect your text for you.

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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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