He that uses many words for explaining any subject, doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink. —JOHN RAY, Naturalist (1627-1705)
Three hundred years before the Internet, John Ray wrote the words above. How could he possibly have known that blogs would explode, communicating with your customers in a conversational tone would become the norm, and “hiding yourself in your own ink” would turn out to be the gravest mistake a small business could make?
Because using too many words does just that: it hides you, and it obscures your message. You spray a bunch of random words out, your readers’ minds wander, and you lose their interest.
Good marketing holds interest, so let’s see what you can do to edit your copy until your message shines through.
Start by writing out everything you’d like to say in your marketing piece. Don’t hold back: get it all down on paper. This first draft will be the subject of your experiments in stripping down copy to the bare facts.
Tight Copy=More Engaged Readers
Tightening up your copy starts with reviewing your core message. What is it that you really want to communicate? Does your small business need to present its services? Do you have a new product to introduce? What is the one point you want your reader to take away from your marketing piece?
Delete the Weakest Link
Once you know the one message you want to convey, go back to your copy and check to see what parts of it veer off from the main message. You don’t have to permanently delete these sections: open up a new document and paste them in. If they’re good, you can use them for something else. If they don’t support the core marketing message you want to convey, delete them.
Strengthen your Message by Pumping It Up with Facts
Remember, marketing claims like “our business is number one” don’t really work. Support your claims with bare facts, and keep them short and sweet. “Our business delivers 25% faster than our competition” is a stronger marketing message.
Pare Down Even More
Can your sentences be shorter? Eliminate flowery words and reduce the number of adjectives. Reorder your words to streamline your information.
Turn and Walk Away, then Revisit It
Tighten up your copy as much as you can, then save and close your document, and move on to something else. Don’t look at it for at least a day if you can. When you go back to it, re-read it with an eye toward cutting and simplifying it even more.
Borrow Someone’s Eyeballs
Ask a colleague to read over your copy, and tell them you’re trying to simplify it. Is it easy to understand? Are there areas that can be pared down even more? Take their input and apply it to your final draft.
Compare Before and After
Once you’ve gone through these steps, your copy will be shorter and will engage your readers. Your marketing message will shine through and you won’t “hide yourself in your own ink.”