I’m reminded of the sticker by Glasgow artist, David Shrigley. Simply says: ‘You can’t help looking at this’ Or a sign on a cake display ‘Remember fly pies? Eccles cakes £2.99’. Sometimes less is more:
- Stop being polite. Get to the point. Put the main point first when writing for the web. Users skim paragraphs. They will pick up the point from the first sentence. And may read no further. This seems rude when we’re used to writing for print, where getting to the point can take a few sentences.
- Get out of bad habits. The waiter offering ‘garden peas’ had picked up the habit from memorising a menu where every item was described by source and origin (‘Eggs from free range corn fed French chickens…’). But diners were left perplexed, wondering what other kind of peas accompany spring lamb – mushy? Remember, what works on paper often doesn’t verbally. We talk in shortcuts.
- Only repeat points for emphasis. Use the rule of 3 for concise memorable patterns. Otherwise, you’re rambling. When you wrote your first draft you may not have found the point you wanted to make. Revise until you do. Second drafts are not just for sissies.
- Express not impress. Don’t use long words and convoluted sentences to show off. Why describe ‘the applications of the device’ when you can say ‘it can be used for…’? Use words you do use, rather than risk misusing words you don’t.
- Practice. From the old fashioned postcard to microblogging sites such as Twitter, getting as much into a small space means being concise and clear. But ‘Wishing you were here’ isn’t enough. Don’t take things too far. Don’t expect the reader to understand what you are too lazy to describe. Ernest Hemingway was celebrated for his sparse simple prose. But even he would resist stripping a story down to ‘man and fish in long battle’. I’m imagining a goldfish, you a whale…