Applying KISS Principle in Writing

I have added a new word to my vocabulary. Logorrhea. We've all been touched by it. What is it? The Word Spy defines it, "excessive verbosity and long-windedness. Also know as verbal diarrhea."

Basically, you'll see plenty of examples of logorrhea in online blogs and content. Do you read every online or email content word for word? Most people quickly scan such content. Jakob Nielsen and many other experts confirm this theory.

It's best to keep it short 'n sweet. There are online Web sites that require 1000+ word articles. This does not mean running free and writing wordy. Ezine editors require tightly written articles. Here are a few tips to help you ensure your writing is concise.

I'm pretty guilty of using qualifiers. While researching this article, I attended a meeting where the manager used, "basically" in every other sentence. That word rang in my head that I said it while talking with her.

Basically, these qualifiers are the "um" of writing. Like "uh" and "um" in conversation, the sentence with the qualifier says the same thing without them. Let's take a look. Reread the second paragraph of this article without the word, "basically." Doesn't it sound better? It gets the same point across.

Forget the following words: "pretty," "rather," "totally," "really," "quite," "basically," "actually," and "very." OK, there
may actually be situations when you need to use one of these words, but use it with care. After all, we can't imagine life or Elvis Presley without "thank you very much."

I worked for a manager with a PhD and he liked giving us articles relating to our work. I hated these articles. They were written by and for people with PhDs. Come on, you know what I mean. Every word in these papers are at least eight letters long and require frequent dictionary use. It makes readers feel stupid. Remember people are scanning online content and they'll more likely absorb simple phrases. People are not stupid. They're overloaded with too much information. If it's complex, they'll skip it and move on. Besides, no one likes a show-off.

How often have you heard, "large-sized" or "biggie-sized" in advertising? That's fine for TV or radio advertising. For
writing, well, it's wordy. We can lop off the "sized" and simply write "large" or "big" object. Instead of "mud-covered shoes," use "muddy shoes." Dump the "beautifully-dressed" for "beautiful."

When I was a wee gal, articles written by me had passive voice. Er, I did it again. That should be, "I wrote articles using passive voice." The hardest part is to avoid it when you don't have a subject or don't know who is the performer.

In passive voice, the subject receives the action expressed by the verb. There are two parts in passive voice: a form of the verb "to be" plus a past participle. Instead, use active voice where the subject performs the action of the verb.

The article was written by Meryl. [passive]
Meryl wrote the article. [active]

I vote for the second sentence. It's crisp.

In this day and age long phrases don't cut it anymore. I read somewhere comparing online reading to a quick shower as opposed to newspaper-reading to be enjoyed like a long, hot bath. It hit home. I'm infamous for starting each morning with a cup of coffee and my newspaper. With every sip, I slowly devour each page of the newspaper. After I finish reading the paper, I turn on the computer and quickly surf pages to get updates.

Go back to the first sentence in the previous paragraph. That phrase of five words could be dumped for one word: "today." Same meaning, isn't it?

There are many online examples on cutting wordiness and wordy phrases. Search for "eliminating wordiness" and you should find plenty of examples.

Time to edit this article and reduce wordiness. Of course, I'll leave the examples for your learning pleasure.

(c) 2004 Meryl K. Evans

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is Editor-in-Chief of eNewsletter Journal and The Remediator Security Digest. She's a slave to a MarketingProfs weekly column and a Web design reference guide at InformIT. She is the author of the popular e-report, How to Start a Business Blog and Build Traffic. Visit her site at http://www.meryl.net/blog/ for free newsletters, articles, and tips.

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