For the first time since reviewing Writing for Web, I disagree with much of what Felder discusses in chapter 7. Reviews and discussions wouldn’t be as interesting if we agreed all the time 🙂
In the chapter Writing Succinctly, Felder explains her tips for achieving tight, easy-to-read content that your audience will enjoy. A few of her tips suck the fun out of using language, and if you follow these tips 100 percent, your writing will read like a book report.
I assigned a win or fail rating to each tip as you go through these. They are all important, but use your common sense and own style. That’s what’s most important.
Tip 1: Stay Focused
Win – Read your content and ask yourself, “What does that sentence mean?” You will feel the flow as well to ensure you’re not rambling.
Tip 2: Be Positive
Fail – If we were positive all the time, the world would be boring. Some of the best content, movies, art, etc. are not positive and provoke debate. Sometimes you have to be negative. Where would the Internet be today if people were always positive?
Tip 3: Trust Your Reader
Both – Don’t over explain something or break down every sentence. Although, in technical writing you have to. You know your audience, so trust your instincts.
Tip 4: Choose Anglo-Saxon Words
Fail – Felder recommends using simple, one syllable words over French or Latin/Greek counterparts. For example you would use ‘end’ instead of ‘finish’ or ‘conclude’. This takes the fun out of the language, and if your writing is clear and entertaining, it doesn’t matter what words you use. If you fine-tune your work for meaning and intent, your audience will understand and appreciate it.
Tip 5: Eliminate Excess Words
Win – Take out unnecessary words and find shortened words. Read your writing aloud, and you will hear what you can cut/change. Examples are: that, got, has gotten, all of a sudden.
Tip 6: Keep Verbs Alive, Cut Adjectives and Adverbs
Win – Avoid ‘to be’ verbs. Review the post for Chapter 2 if needed, and remember that descriptive words are not always needed, nor do they make your writing better.
Tip 7: Don’t Use Arrogant and Snooty Words
Fail – Some words Felder uses as examples are: indeed, certainly, of course, and exactly. These are not snooty words, and writers who use these are not trying to be better than their audience. Keeping these words may not tighten your writing, but if you lose your voice or personality, what’s the point? Just be yourself.
Tip 8: Avoid Happy Talk and Sales Pitches
Win – Don’t be over-the-top nice or try to sell your readers. If you follow tip 3, you should trust your readers to see through you and think you are fake. People want to enjoy reading, not feel like you are trying to buy or patronize them.
Tallied up, the score is 50/50, and I will continue to use ‘indeed’ and ‘question’ if those words fit the bill. Don’t forget, you are the final judge.