Storytelling tip: Put your writing on a diet
By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
Just as too many pounds will make you flabby, too many words will make your writing flabby. So, put your writing on a diet. Slim it down. Make it fitter. And, just as taking off extra pounds is good for your health, taking out extra words is good for your writing.
Start with a goal. Losing weight often starts with stepping on a scale and deciding you need to lose (fill in your number) pounds. You can do the same thing to eliminate flab from your writing. Start with your current word count and decide to eliminate (fill in your number) words. If you get to the new number easily, do it again with a lower number. Keep doing it until you can’t take anything else out and still tell the story you want to tell.
One way to trim off extra pounds is to eliminate empty calories that don’t have nutritional value. One way to trim down your writing is to eliminate empty words that don’t add value to your story. Two words I target for possible elimination: “very” and “that.” For example, “happy” usually works as well as “very happy.” If not, try “ecstatic.” Look for the word “that. “Sometimes you need it. Often you don’t. Delete the ones (that) you don’t need.
Eliminate unnecessary modifiers. Redundant pairs, for example: final outcome, past history, future plans.
Become more active. Being more active is a good way to lose weight. Being more active is a good way to improve your writing, too. Eliminate the passive voice (mistakes were made) with active voice (I goofed) whenever possible.
Being fit isn’t just about how many pounds you weigh. It’s also about muscle tone. You can tone up your writing, too. Using shorter sentences makes your writing easier to understand and remember. One way to do that is to look for opportunities to change commas into periods — changing one long sentence into two shorter ones.
We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?
Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.