Happy Earth Day! I encourage you to take action today – however small – to make our planet healthier. Many small actions can have a big impact.
What does Earth Day have to do with business writing and editing? One of the mantras for Earth Day is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Today, l look at “Reduce” through a writing lens. (I’ll consider “Reuse and Recycle” in the days ahead.)
Reduce – use fewer words
In writing for an online audience, fewer words are better. This point was driven home to me at the Nielsen Norman conference last month. Fewer words aids reading speed and comprehension for ALL readers. Web writing requires that we trim the words while retaining or enhancing their meaning. It’s harder than it looks. “Less is more” on the web, but “less” does not mean “easier to write.”
Here’s a recent rewrite I did to say the same thing in fewer words:
Original: “His experience working in the corporate world as a manager level jumped started his entrepreneurial spirit to to where he is now.” (22 words)
Re-written: “His management experience in the corporate world jump-started his entrepreneurial spirit.” (11 words)
50% fewer words is a rough benchmark that Nielsen Norman suggests when re-working print content for the web.
So the Earth Day idea of “reduce” is, in fact, very applicable to writing for business. When you pare away the excess verbiage, your meaning shines more brightly.