How to tighten up your writing

Start with simple, declarative statements.

From business writing to academic writing, poor subject and verb choices spoil the presentation of good ideas and tax a reader’s attention span. Writers call it the “active voice”, but it’s simply this: pick the right subjects and verbs and your readers will will keep reading.

(You’re still reading, right?)

Consider this:

The building was sold by Mitchell Froom before it was refitted for occupancy by Perfect Curve.

How about this instead:

Mitchell Froom sold the building to Perfect Curve prior to its refitting.

A subtle difference, perhaps, but an important one. In the first case, the building is the subject of the sentence; is thisĀ really the subject? In the second case, Mitchell Froom is the subject; this is appropriate because, let’s imagine, we’re pitching for Froom. (The case will be similar if we’re pitching for the refit, or for Perfect Curve.)

Furthermore, in the first sentence, refitted “for occupancy” is probably unnecessary, unless Perfect Curve did something unexpected. Surely when you refit something, you intend to use it, and the use of the building is simply part of Perfect Curve’s identity. (Let’s assume that we know Perfect Curve to be an advertising agency. Not likely they’ll be refitting with surgical theatres or warehouse space.)

Also, the first sentence is 16 words; the second sentence is 12 words. We’ve reduced the length by a quarter, and this is good. Economy and efficiency in your communication is just as important as economy and efficiency in your supply chain.

Finally, notice in the first sentence that the action is “was sold”. That kind of verb construction often signals that you’ve chosen the wrong subject. This isn’t always true, but it’s a good guide to help you identify spots where you might be more efficient — and more precise — in your communications.

In short, tight writing saves time and money. Keep it tight.