A THREE-STEP PROCESS FOR SHARPER COPY

Worried that what you’ve written sounds a little too light and fluffy? Concerned that your words seem to be traveling all over the place instead of delivering a clear message? Thanks to a handy tool within Microsoft Word and most other word processors, and with a little bit of self-discipline, you can easily make your writing tighter and more powerful.

That handy tool is the Word Count indicator. In my current version of Word, it’s located at the lower left-hand side of the screen, right next to the page number. And here’s how you can use it to improve your writing: highlight whatever it is that you’re writing, whether that’s a page or a paragraph. The word count indicator gives you the total number of words.

Now subtract 10 percent from that number. In other words, if what you’ve written is 300 words long, ten percent is 30, so you end up with 270 words. Your next step is to edit the copy until it says the same thing with just 270 words. And when you get to 270, repeat the process. Now your goal is 243 words.

If you pursue this process honestly, what you’ll arrive at is the same message conveyed in 243 words, instead of the original 300. Editing it to reach that length may have been brutal, but notice what you cut out. In all likelihood, you simplified your sentence structure, eliminated excess descriptions, and threw out some half-baked thoughts. Your reader will benefit from your willingness to trim.

Want a real challenge? Instead of trimming what you wrote by 10 percent, cut it in half. Impossible, you say? Professional copywriters do exactly that every day. And even if you never end up writing copy for a living, using that technique will make your everyday writing more powerful and effective.

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