A number of our clients send us communications they’ve already drafted – and they ask us to “make them punchier” or “zippier”.
So in the spirit of sharing, here are some easy ways to make your text feel like it’s got its go-faster pants on:
1. Use shorter sentences
We always think of sentences as “chunks of meaning”. And if you want your text to motor along, you need to be thinking about writing in bite-sized chunks. Shorter sentences help your reader to feel like you’re giving them information in an easy, energetic way. So keep your sentences under 25 words (well under, if you can). And if you can’t say your sentence out loud in one breath, it is WAY too long.
2. But vary sentence lengths
If you write the same-ish length of sentence over and over again, you’ll start to make your reader feel sleepy, and they’ll zone out. So make some sentences short. Like really short. And then you can make other sentences a bit longer to vary the rhythm.
3. And try sentence fragments
A sentence (or chunk of meaning) traditionally has a subject, an object and a verb.
- Subject = the thing the sentence is about
- Verb = what the subject does (the action)
- Object = what the subject does the verb to
- So: The cat (subject) sat (verb) on the mat (object).
All sentences work this way. But not everything you write that finishes with a full stop has to be a sentence (subject, object, verb). You can write “fragments” too. Like this. And they make your text gallop along.
4. Use shorter words
English has its origins in a number of other languages – which means we’ve often got two words that mean the same thing. For example: require and need. They both mean the same thing. “Require” is just a longer, fancier way of saying, “need”. Some people think if they’re writing, they should always choose the longer, fancier version – but take it from us, that’s just going to slow you down. So make sure you use a majority of shorter words and keep the longer ones for special occasions.
5. Drop definite articles
The word “the” can make some sentences feel a little clunkier than they have to. If you want your copy to zoom, get rid of it. This is a device beloved of tabloid writers – but it won’t make your copy feel sensationalist. It’ll just give
the sentences a little extra pep.
6. Streamline punctuation
If you know how to use semi colons (punctuation like this ; ), that’s great, but it won’t help you write fast, pacy copy. That’s because complex punctuation is very, very slightly distracting for readers. So if you want your readers to read and absorb your information quickly, keep it simple. Use dashes – like this. And commas at a push.