Want to add value? Cut 30% of your content.

"I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time."
—Blaise Pascal

Yesterday my brother asked me to take a look at his site and make some marketing recommendations.

(Do your siblings give free consulting to each other? I’d love to know!) 

I took a look at his site and the first thing I noticed was a ton of words. But no particular words jumped out at me.

Even blocks of text broken down into paragraphs were overwhelming. I was a little afraid to read any of it! And if I wasn't his sister, I may not have.

So how do you write content that people (other than blood relatives) will actually read?

It’s simple: 

Cut. it. down.

I know you want to tell your readers everything, very precisely, but here's the thing: If you make it arduous for them, they're going to read none of it. And then you're worse off than if you'd only written a sentence or two.

"Okay," I hear you saying, "I'm with you, Julia, but how do I decide what gets the axe?"

Cut redundant phrases

Often we say the same thing twice, in a slightly different way, in the same sentence or paragraph. Everyone does it. Look for these bits, and then select and delete.

For example, a few paragraphs back I originally wrote "I know you want to tell your readers everything, and you want to say it very precisely..." But that bit I've italicized wasn't really necessary.

Sometimes repetition is good for effect, but usually it's not. Delete!

Find a shorter sentence with the same meaning

Sneaky little words like "that" or "really" can easily take over your writing without adding any meaning. Look for these words that aren't really adding any meaning, and take them out. The new, shorter sentence will probably say the same thing.

You can also Look for shorter or more active phrases that retain your meaning or make it more clear, like I did with this sentence. When I cut out "you can also," it made it more active, didn't it?

Remember that your readers don't know what you cut out.

Readers won't miss what they never saw. They're too focused on what's in front of them.

For example, remember that epic chapter of The Great Gatsby that would have made the book that much more interesting, if only it hadn't been cut?

Of course you don't. You never even wondered if there was such a chapter. And neither will your readers.

Now go forth and chop!