You may think you've just penned the most brilliant correspondence of the year, but if it takes the recipient too long to wade through lengthy paragraphs, he'll never know how bright you are.
Take a tip from writing guru William Strunk: "Vigorous writing is concise."
Follow these steps to trim your prose:
- Reread each paragraph, one sentence at a time. If you can delete a sentence and not change the paragraph's meaning, take it out.
- Replace two words with one whenever possible by deleting unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. Examples: Substitute "analyze" for "study carefully"; "list" for "make a list."
- Cut excess from your writing with a word search for "and." If "and" links two nouns, verbs or modifiers, question whether you need both. Examples: "background and experience," "grow and expand," "each and every."
- Place vital facts at the beginning of a sentence, paragraph or document. Skimmers usually read only the beginnings of all three.
- Limit the opening and closing paragraphs of an e-mail to three lines—other paragraphs to five—and double-space between paragraphs. Also, use subheads to help readers scan your message.