9 Steps to Clearer Writing: Cutting the Fat and Choosing Words Carefully

Big is Beautiful!

Big is Beautiful!



“Big is Beautiful!” may work for plus-sized underwear ads, but it fails miserably in the world of online writing. Clear, concise writing is best. You have 500 words or less to take your reader on a journey with a destination of your choosing.

The Challenge

Your goal is to transport readers from point A to point B in a manner that inspires them to continue following your lead.  Most readers aren’t that picky, they’ll follow nearly anyone that piques their interest for a short time; the challenge is to keep their interest.

Step Three: Cutting the Fat

Cutting the fat is a painful process for many writers. Laboring over a creation only to trash your beloved words in a pile on the floor is unnatural. However, the trimmed up product is often a creation more beautiful and valuable than the first draft.

The Trimming Process

Cutting the fact begins with eliminating or revising any confusion in your writing.

  • Take out any parts that do not move the reader toward the destination. If it is not related to your topic, get rid of it.
  • Organize your thoughts to create a logical flow. (We mentioned these first two steps in Focus and Keep it Flowing.)
  • Break up long paragraphs into smaller chunks of related information. This creates a little more white space and is easier on the eyes. It also allows readers to scan for information quickly before they decide to invest the time it takes to read an entire post.
  • Replace flowery prose with powerful descriptions. Long-winded descriptions are nice for poetry and story telling, but are not a good fit for most online content.

Step Four: Choosing Words Carefully

If you are a writer, you already know that word choice can make all the difference. All writers have a love for words, and sometimes we have a difficult time choosing which words to romance for a post. One way to select the right words for a post begins with determining your tone for the piece. Let’s say you are writing a sample blog post for a website that sells lightning rods. What emotions underlie your post on lightning storms? Are you conveying wonder, fear, fascination, or fast and hard clinical facts?

Once you identify the tone of your writing, brainstorm words that express your thoughts and evoke the emotions behind your tone. For example, words such as sizzling, singeing, ear-splitting, ground shaking, hair raising, and white hot invoke images of a lightening storm that convey power and fascination. In contrast, charring, electrified, scorched, random, split-second, and life threatening convey an attitude of fear.

Once you have a word bank to draw from, you can replace dull or incongruent words with selections from your brainstorming list.

Focus, flow, and lean writing are essential elements of clearer writing.  Next up in the Clearer Writing series: Originality. Stay tuned to learn how marching to the beat of a different drummer can be a good thing.

6 Responses to 9 Steps to Clearer Writing: Cutting the Fat and Choosing Words Carefully
  1. Graham Strong
    September 22, 2008 | 6:16 pm

    Hey Jamie,

    Cutting the fat might be painful, but it’s easier if you “keep your eyes on the prize”. None of those extra words matter, it’s only the end piece that matters. Doing loopy-loops with your writing only distracts the reader instead of leading them through the article.

    What helps me is in the future to read both the final version and the drafts that came before. Usually you’ll find that the final is much stronger than the earlier drafts. Ultimately, isn’t that what great writing all about: strong communication?

    Great post!

    ~Graham

  2. Graham Strong
    September 22, 2008 | 2:16 pm

    Hey Jamie,

    Cutting the fat might be painful, but it’s easier if you “keep your eyes on the prize”. None of those extra words matter, it’s only the end piece that matters. Doing loopy-loops with your writing only distracts the reader instead of leading them through the article.

    What helps me is in the future to read both the final version and the drafts that came before. Usually you’ll find that the final is much stronger than the earlier drafts. Ultimately, isn’t that what great writing all about: strong communication?

    Great post!

    ~Graham

  3. Jamie Simmerman
    September 23, 2008 | 7:47 pm

    Hey Graham!

    Those extra words really don’t matter and reading earlier drafts is a great way to visualize the differences. Since strong communication is your specialty, I really appreciate the tip! Thanks.

  4. Jamie
    September 23, 2008 | 3:47 pm

    Hey Graham!

    Those extra words really don’t matter and reading earlier drafts is a great way to visualize the differences. Since strong communication is your specialty, I really appreciate the tip! Thanks.

  5. […] or other events; it can provide a nice summary of a product or service your company offers. But resist the urge to pack it too full of text, pictures, diagrams, and so forth (especially […]

  6. […] or other events; it can provide a nice summary of a product or service your company offers. But resist the urge to pack it too full of text, pictures, diagrams, and so forth (especially […]

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