After firing off another long
missive email the other day, I tweeted a request for resources on the art of brevity. I felt fairly certain that this is one of those things you just have to practice, but wow—people came through with a LOT of suggestions. For posterity, here’s a roundup of the recommendations:
Lots of books! I compiled these into a list on bookshop.org.
For transparency, that’s an affiliate link, so I’ll receive a small portion of sales from those books. Please don’t feel the need to buy from Bookshop (though they support small businesses!). Wherever you buy/borrow your books from, I do humbly ask that you avoid making *ahem* massively wealthy mono-retailers any richer.
- Content Design London: Readability Guidelines
- This list compiled by Cheryl Stephens
- This clip from “A River Runs Through It”
- In-progress guidelines for cognitive accessibility
Advice / Personal Process
- …and give yourself at least a day between writing and editing your own work.
- Work with an editor, or peer review.
- Cut adverbs and adjectives.
- Cut out unnecessary words, ruthlessly.
- Break down compound sentences and clauses.
- Use active voice.
- More literally, read your words aloud.
- Or explain a concept out loud to another person—then write that down!
- Use semantic line breaks as a “code smell” for run-on sentences.
- Have clarity of purpose.
- Ask yourself: “Do people need to know that at this point?”
What are your favorite tips on brevity? Feel free to chime in on Twitter or shoot me an email!