Pamela Wilson

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Strip Down to the Bare Facts

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)

brand marketing is stronger when you strip down to bare factsThree 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.”

Pamela Wilson

I want to help you take the next step. Pick your free workshop topic and let’s do this!

8 thoughts on “Strip Down to the Bare Facts”

  1. Great post! For me one of the best tips was “Turn and Walk Away, then Revisit It.” That tip doesn’t only apply to editing either.

    I have learned that with any kind of writing, you can’t force it. The more you try to, the worse it will be. The best thing is to stop working until you can clear your head. Writing when you are stressed or irritated with yourself is not easy or productive.

    • Hello David! I use the “turn and walk away” trick for writing and design work both. It’s amazing what you “see” when you haven’t looked at it in a while.

  2. Lots of good advice here Pamela. Clarity is always a worthy goal. I often find myself thinking about the following quote, “Sorry this is so long. I didn’t have time to make it shorter”.

    That quote has been attributed to so many people that I can’t keep track of who originally said it, but he or she was undoubtedly a great writer (and a marketer at heart). Writing three pages on a topic is easy. Turning the three-page brain dump into one page of essentials is where a good writer shines.

    Here are a few items to consider adding to your list:
    * Write in active voice instead of a passive voice. Passive writing adds fluff and nearly always distracts from your message.
    * Read your work aloud (to your dog or even yourself). If it doesn’t flow well, fix it.
    * When you “Borrow Someone’s Eyeballs”, remember that they won’t tell you everything because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. One strategy to work through this is to ask them for a list of questions they have after reading your writing. Review those questions carefully to understand where you left them confused or hanging.

  3. I luv the minimalistic approach, Pamela

    Most of it makes double-sense, but the flowery aspect–mmmm- that’s like a main part of my writing. I wish I could neglect that one, but I can’t.

    But I’ll keep the facts tip, that one sounds useful as heck !

    • Here’s the thing Mars, if ‘flowery’ works for your audience, then that’s absolutely what you must do. I’m sure you use just the right amount of flowery prose, and not too much for your market.

  4. A lot of sense you are making here. I use a few of the techniques myself. The get up and walk away really works well. I don’t even want to admit to you how many times my brain and my fingers are saying different things at the same time, almost like they are hold two entirely different conversations at the same time, scary…LoL…

    My other favorite is borrowing eyes…my wife hates it, but I am constantly having her come and view writings and creations I have done to get her opinion as a regular non-geeky web traveler.

    • I do a lot of “borrowing eyeballs” around here, too, Brad. It’s really helpful, especially when I know something’s not quite right but I can’t put my finger on it. Thanks for the comment!

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