Think for a moment about some of the blogs you visit most often. How many of those do you visit primarily because you enjoy the writer’s style and way with words? How many of them do you frequent because they have good, easy-to-digest information?
Some logophiles do spend much of their blog-reading time enjoying the wordplay of their favorite writers, but for most of us — and especially in a business setting — we visit blogs to find information, not to hang around.
Keep that in mind when you write. Focus on making the information in your posts easy to find so readers can get in, find what they want and get out. Do that consistently, and readers (and potential clients) will recognize your website as a good resource that doesn’t waste time.
Here are four ways you can simplify and streamline your writing.
1. Let strong verbs do more lifting
Strong verbs — like mollycoddle, tease and praise — not only transmit specific actions but carry with them connotations, emotional attachments and common perceptions, adding to the meaning of the sentence. On the other hand, weak verbs — like was, had and went — carry no attachments and rely on the surrounding text for their meaning.
Your sentences will require fewer words and will contain more information if you use strong verbs, and readers will spend less time reading and more time absorbing information.
A quick example. This paragraph is perfectly grammatical but doesn’t use many strong verbs:
To come up with ideas for long-tail keywords, think about what kinds of questions your customers might have. Chances are that many of the questions you come up with will contain long-tail keywords. Once you’ve created a list, check to see how much search volume each keyword gets.
Stronger verbs transmit more information in less space and make the text more interesting:
To brainstorm ideas for long-tail keywords, consider what kinds of questions your customers might ask. Long-tail keywords will be hiding in many of those questions. Once you’ve assembled a list, analyze each keyword’s search volume.
Remember: Verbs drive your sentences; don’t let them idle.
2. Segregate data and interpretation
I wrote about separating text and data not too long ago, and it boils down to this: Some readers want your data, and some want your interpretation of the data. Mixing data and interpretation together wastes both readers’ time, so put your hard data in charts and tables, and reserve your text for interpretation.
Remember: Whether readers come for numbers or words, make it simple for them to find what they want.
3. Don’t make words more intense than they need to be
An intensifier is a type of word (usually an adverb) that intends to turn the volume up (and sometimes down) on a word. Some of the most common intensifiers — and the ones that editors most often delete — are very, just and really. Do yourself and your editor a favor and get rid of them. They’re only wasting your readers’ time.
When you add an intensifier to a word, it means you’ve either chosen the wrong word or you’re trying to avoid making an explicit statement.
For example, instead of writing
Google stock would have been a very good investment, but I just didn’t have the confidence to really put my money behind it.
Write this instead:
Google stock would have been an amazing investment, but I lacked the confidence to commit.
Remember: You would rather have someone describe your writing as outstanding rather than very good, so don’t describe anything else that way.
4. Use clear headings
For readers who need only one specific morsel of information, clear headings help them home in on that morsel, negating the need to skim from the beginning of the post. Yes, witty, pun-liscious headings might win a few smiles, but if those headings come at the expense of usefulness, avoid them.
Remember: Your headings are a map. Some readers want to enjoy the drive from beginning to end; others just want to make a quick stop somewhere along the way. Keep both types of readers in mind.
Good content is streamlined
No matter how well you know your audience, you will never know what they want from a blog post on any particular visit. They could be browsing through, looking for useful posts to read, or they could be dropping in to retrieve a half-remembered statistic they saw during a previous visit. They could be careful readers, speed readers or skimmers. A streamlined post is accessible to all of these readers, not wasting a second of their time.