Keep it clean

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When we sit down to write, staring at an empty blank page or text field can be daunting. A cursor blinks at you, waiting for a trail of words for it to lead. More, more, more. But filling up empty space isn’t necessarily the point of writing. The point is to make a point.

Let’s define “clean.”

When we think of the word clean, it might conjure up the act of cleaning, or something being sparkling and shiny, but because the dictionary defines the word as “free from dirt, marks, or stains,” and also “uncontaminated,” I can’t help but draw parallel to clean copy being something we ruthlessly have to scrub and wash of clutter and mess.

American writer and journalist William Zinsser has some of my favorite quotes when it comes to writing clean. His book, On Writing Well, unashamedly elaborates on the issue with most writing.

“Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that's already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what--these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.”

In other words, the strongest sentences are the ones that are simple, clear and get straight to the point. In this book, William is mostly writing with non-fiction in mind, but when it comes to creating language around your business, product, or service, I find it most helpful to follow this advice.

But shouldn’t my copy be inviting and exciting?

Yes. It most certainly should. But we don’t have to overpower your main message, benefit and added-value to your audience with words that just take up digital real estate. Rather than $100-words, the point here is to be as human-centric with our writing with short, clear and easily digestible content. There’s a difference between bold, energetic and direct and overpowering, hard-to-understand and drawn-out writing.

Taking out the trash.

Euphemisms aside, the next time you open up Instagram to write a post, or are thinking through your brand or company’s content for a new campaign or website page; take out the trash.

Here’s a few helpful tips when writing or editing:

  • Look for repetition.

Repeating yourself sparingly for emphasis can be a style choice. But otherwise, it’s best to clear out your writing or brand copy of redundancies.

  • What’s the point?

Elaboration must be done in moderation. Keep the overly long and descriptive sentences for another time. Since our attention spans for digital experiences are alarmingly low, we must keep things simple, make our points and do so with aim.

  • Stay active.

    The difference between active and passive voice is going to ensure your short, simple and sweet content is engaging and interesting to read. Active voice places your brand voice in real-time, making a more personal connection with your audience and sounds fresh. Technically speaking, passive voice sentences are where the subject receives action. Active voice is where the subject performs the action.

    Passive voice: It is believed that wellness lends itself to good ingredients.

    Active voice: It’s simple. Good ingredients lead to good wellness.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Writing clean is a practice that takes time, consistency and intention. Be aware of your habits when writing, know what to look out for, and the clean writing will start to become second-nature and preference.

At Required Reading, crafting clear brand messages and copy isn’t only a learned skill, but a passion. If you’re needing help with your own content or messaging alignment for your brand or business, reach out to us. I’d love to chat more.

-Diana

CraftDiana Martinez