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How to cut business writing content in half

How to cut business writing content in half

I’ve always appreciated brevity.

Using five small words rather than ten big ones.

Two simple tips will help you cut your writing length in half.

Business writing tip #1: smothered verbs

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Research shows that one simple business writing tip can help you reduce your word count by up to 25%.

In short, avoid smothered verbs.

A smothered verb is a verb that’s turned into a noun.

For example:

“Make a decision” (decide).

“Take action” (act).

“Have a meeting” (meet).

Why is it a problem?

Two reasons:

Firstly, it increases the length of your writing, so the reader is more likely to switch off.

Secondly, it moves the reader further away from the action you’re recommending.

The solution

Whenever you need someone to do something, use the active verb.

Scroll your text for the following words:






Remove them and you’ll be left with the active verb.

Decide. Act. Meet.

There’s a big difference between the following sentences:

“Make your subscription now”


“Subscribe now”.

“Take the environment into consideration”


“Consider the environment”.

Active verbs push the reader towards action.

Business writing tip #2: shorter words

How to cut business content

In Series 10 of the TV sitcom Friends, Joey is asked to perform Monica and Chandler’s wedding.

He considers the following phrase:

“They’re warm people with big hearts”.

To sound clever, he changes that to:

“They’re humid pre-possessing homo-sapiens with full-sized aortic pumps”.

I see this all the time in writing.

Ten-letter words when a three-letter one will suffice.

Four words when one will do.

“Utilise” rather than “use”.

“In the event that” rather than “if”.

Princeton University scholar Danny Oppenheimer found that using short words increases the reader’s confidence.

It makes them more likely to trust you.

Winston Churchill won a Nobel Prize for Literature. He told us:

“Short words are the best ones, and the old words best of all”.

So, guard against inflation and newspeak.

More business writing help

We’ve written more about brevity here.

Or we can apply the same principles to your business on our business writing courses in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Our philosophy is simple:

Be brief. Be direct. Gain trust.


Andrew McFarlan is the Managing Director of Pink Elephant Communications.


You can view his profile here.


2nd November 2018 featured in Blog by Pink Elephant.


Images by  © Rrodrickbeiler © Fabrizio Mariani © Brad Calkins © Olga Popova )




8th November 2018 Featured in: Blog, Business writing training blogs By:

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