Now that I have your attention, calm down. I’m not actually suggesting you kill anyone, although what I’m about to recommend may hurt you just a bit.
I’m talking about your written babies. Your stories or blog posts that you labor over for hours, inserting adjectives, examples and phrases until they’re about twice as long as necessary and they bore your readers to tears.
It’s time to chop them up. As the old journalism saying goes: Murder those babies.
When attempting to shorten your writing, consider:
Understand the focus of the story and stick to it. Eliminate anything that doesn’t directly apply to and advance your subject.
Pretend every word costs you $1. Save your money. Clichés will bankrupt you.
Using passive voice creates long sentences that lack action. Write the way you speak—subject, verb, object order.
Reporters sometimes use quotes just to use them. It’s better to have a few strong quotes. Also, remove the quote if it and the transition paragraph say the same thing.
Too much detail
It’s acceptable to have a style and to provide your readers with details that lend to your storytelling credibility. Just remember that you’re writing news, not prose.
Write it once and write it well, then move on.
Every reporter has words they use out of habit. Mine is a common one – that. Figure out your habit word, then proofread just to remove that word.
Always revise, polish and proofread. Shorter writing is stronger. It’s also more difficult. Spend the time to make your writing amazing.
Cut big, then small
This is an excellent piece of advice from one of my favorite writing coaches, Roy Peter Clark. He suggests that writers “prune the dead branches before shaking out the dead leaves.”
Keep it simple
Use simple words in short sentences. Stick to one idea per paragraph.