When writing emails, website content, or product copy, explaining your point in great detail doesn’t necessarily make your content easier to understand. In fact, it can confuse and distract the reader, often muddling the purpose and benefit of your message. More and more we’re realizing that the old saying holds true in everything: simplicity is key.
Wordiness is actually harmful
Wordiness makes content more time-consuming and stress-inducing. Using a clean writing style ensures people can understand what they read, find the information they need, and use it to achieve their goals. And if readers are achieving their goals, you should be achieving yours.Wordiness makes content more time-consuming and stressful.Click To Tweet
A study conducted at a Western Michigan University found that 80% of people preferred sentences written in plain language (a writing technique intended to make content clearer for the audience). That held true for subject matter experts, too. In fact, contrary to the popular belief that more educated audiences prefer highbrow language, it seemed that the more specialist someone’s knowledge, the greater their preference for plain language.
So, what happens when people can’t understand your content?
1. People think you’re untrustworthy
When content is tricky or confusing, consumers view the company and product as untrustworthy. Even something like a food label can feel annoyingly misleading — over 82% of Americans feel tricked by nutritional information.Tricky or confusing content makes consumers view the company and product as untrustworthy.Click To Tweet
2. You lose customers
Content can ruin a customer’s experience and their opinion of your brand. Unhelpful or conflicting messages ultimately result in a complete loss of confidence — which means you’ve probably lost them as a customer. According to Gladly’s 2018 Customer Service Expectations Report, 92% of consumers say they would stop buying from a company after three or fewer poor customer service experiences. 26% of those would stop after just one bad experience. And “poor customer service” includes bad content. In the same study, more than 50% of people who used FAQs and chatbots were disappointed with their experience.More than 50% of people who have used FAQs and chatbots were disappointed with their experience.Click To Tweet
Even products with an amazing market fit will suffer because of muddled messages. By eliminating wordiness in writing to improve simplicity, you can earn customer trust and increase conversions.
Aim for a clean writing style
As shown in the Western Michigan University study, a great way to reduce wordiness and decrease confusion is to use plain language. It makes it easier for people to understand and engage with your content, whether that’s skimming a blog post to find the juicy bits or reading an entire technical document.
Here are a few more ways to implement a clean writing style and make your content more appealing:
1. Summarize first
If you don’t get to the point quickly, readers won’t stick around. The first paragraph should establish what readers can expect from the rest of the material and sets the tone for the piece, so find a balance between catchy and informative.
2. Remove redundancies
Get rid of repetitive expressions. Many redundancies are overlooked because we use them a lot in speech. But in writing, they need to go. For example, “cancel out” and “future plans” can both be trimmed to one word.
3. Cut clutter
Avoid overusing adjectives and adverbs. To check if your sentence has an adverb, scan your content for “-ly” words that describe a noun. If you can remove it without changing the meaning of your sentence, remove the adverb and opt for a stronger verb to replace the phrase. For example, turn “very easy” into “effortless” or “walked quickly” into “hurried”.
4. Replace jargon
Unless you’re writing for a niche audience and you’re positive they use the same language as you, avoid jargon and industry-specific terms. Instead, give context and write as though you’re explaining a topic to a friend or family member.
5. Practice brevity
Keep paragraphs under five sentences and sentences under 25 words. Lengthy sentences aren’t forbidden, but don’t use more words than necessary to convey your message. Rearrange content and, again, cut the clutter for succinct content. When you have a lot to share, think about using lists to make content easily digestible. And I say “practice” intentionally — writing just 10 words is usually much harder than writing 26.For a clean writing style: 1. Summarize first - 2. Remove redundancies - 3. Cut clutter - 4. Replace jargon - 5. Practice brevityClick To Tweet
Use writing assistant tools to help
If you want assistance eliminating wordiness in writing, use a content AI tool like Writer. It can check for:
- Common language redundancies, to reduce wordiness
- Unfamiliar words, to reduce complex writing
- Subject, verb, and object spacing (they should be close together for clearer sentences)
- Sentence length, to help break up long thoughts
- Opportunities to replace passive voice with active voice (passive voice often results in longer sentences)
Long story short: awkward and unhelpful copy will ruin interactions with the people reading your content. However you decide to do it, work on simplifying your writing to earn trust, build better relationships, and improve your business.