Updated May 2023

Sweating the small stuff can have big benefits. Here are a few small fixes you can deploy immediately to give your writing more impact and make you a more effective communicator:

  1. Reduce the number of words
  2. Support skim and scan
  3. Make it consistent

Cut word count by 20%.

We all tuck in extra words and phrases that don't really help our audience. Tighter writing conveys your message faster and with more impact, and makes your voice more confident. Do a word count and target 20% of that for chopping. Cut qualifying statements, replace weak verbs with ones that describe the action and how it's being done, ask yourself if each detail is truly relevant to readers (as opposed to you only as the writer).

Upgrade subheads and list intros.

As much as we all want to think readers hang on our every word, many are skimming and scanning for keywords and relevant details. Make it easier for them by using subheads and bullet/number list intro phrases (as I've done here) as signposts drawing the eye to important information. This tactic also has the benefit of delivering key takeaways even without a careful read. Go through your draft to add these elements or tune up the ones you have.

Revise for consistency.

Make decisions -- based on your corporate style or audience/higher-ups' preferences -- about things like punctuation of lists, capitalization of titles and subheads, bullet list format, etc. Don't worry too much about these items while you're drafting. Instead, make a specific revision pass to check these off.

These three revisions are easy to implement and internalize. Focus on them with your writing this week and you'll be a better writer.

Pro tip for parents: Your kids can use these strategies, too!

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