The new year often brings resolutions to lose weight, trim down and tone up. In 2016, why not make that commitment to your marketing copy? Get your content lean and mean by saying no to do-nothing words and phrases. You know the ones we mean. Those bloated word-clumps that give writing the slow and heavy feeling Uncle Al complains of after scarfing down a third helping of turkey dinner: in order to, in terms of, in keeping with…
Because these phrases are so familiar and time-worn, they have a way of sneaking in unnoticed. Here are some ways to keep them at bay:
Watch the beginnings of sentences.
That’s where a lot of do-nothing phrases lurk. Why say, “It is important to note that resource optimization matters,” when you could just get to it with, “Resource optimization matters”? Trust your reader to know it’s important to note because you’re noting it.
Stay on the lookout for unnecessary words.
Phrases like “end results” or “the month of January” or “in the province of Ontario” can all be much leaner. Results come at the end, so “end” isn’t needed. January is a month, so just say “January.” Ditto Ontario: it’s a province, and unless you’re writing for an audience outside of Canada who may not know that, you can probably get away with just saying “in Ontario.”
Use active voice — subject/verb/object.
Avoid passive constructions, leading clauses and convoluted wording. Something like, “Business income reporting schedules determine fiscal year assessment mailing,” is confusing partly for its string of nouns and partly because the subject — the mailing — comes at the end. “When we mail your fiscal year assessment depends on when you report your business income,” is clearer and to the point.
Following these practices will make your content tighter, lighter and more readable — and could very well be one of the easiest New Year’s resolutions to keep!
P.S. Here are some other empty phrases to guard against: