Three simple steps to sharper copy

Thanks to a handy tool within Microsoft Word and most other word processors, it’s easy to make your writing tighter and more powerful.

That handy tool is the Word Count indicator. 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 conveys the same message 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 thing said in 243 words, instead of the original 300. Editing it to reach that length may have been brutal, but notice what you cut out. Most likely, you simplified your sentence structure, eliminated excess descriptions, and threw out some half-baked thoughts. Your reader will benefit from your edits.

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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