Nora Ephron said her work as a reporter for the New York Daily News was important to her career because it was where she learned to “write short.”
What does it mean to write short? It means getting to the point, composing shorter sentences and paragraphs and eliminating unnecessary words and phrases—all vital to newspaper reporting.
Do you write short? Can you write shorter? Here are a few places where writing shorter can be useful in PR and other business applications:
- Headlines. You don’t need to tell the whole story in a headline. (My previous blog post is an exception.) Many media releases have headlines that could serve as entire opening paragraphs. Google search results cut off long headlines. Go to prnewswire.com and browse through some of the releases that have wordy headlines. They provide examples of how not to do it.
- Subject lines. Similarly, a long email subject line will almost certainly be cut off in the inbox display, sometimes with comic results. Whether you are sending to thousands via Constant Contact or sending to one, simplify and shorten.
- Verbose releases. Unless you are being paid by the word, include the information and necessary details. Quotes from key individuals should be tightly edited and relevant. Provide contact information, including functioning weblinks, to all who desire more.
- Lengthy “boilerplates.” The purpose is to give basic information at the end of a release to those who are not familiar with the organization. Special language is required for certain releases that may impact publicly traded stocks. But some boilerplates read like an advertisement, which is unnecessary.
- Twitter posts. The limit is 140 characters. But if you want your tweet to be easily “retweeted,” make sure it totals less than 140. If you add “RT @davidcraigstl:” that adds 18 characters. To allow retweeting without editing, tweet shorter.
Writing shorter can be a challenge. But you can do it.