Sounds like they taught me some pretty violent behavior while I studied English in college, huh? Well, they didn’t. It’s no surprise we use metaphors to understand how to make writing better, and "cutting the fat" and "killing your darlings" has nothing to do with brutality and everything to do with getting all of that unnecessary fluff out of your writing and out of your life! What does removing filler have to do with Internet presence? We’ve said it before: online readers have an almost miniscule attention span, and search engines aren’t exactly looking to see who used the best adverbs in their site content.

Below are a few tips to tighten up your web content to keep readers and search engines interested in what you have to offer the world:

  • Ditch the Doormat: Enough with the passive language, already. If you edit all of your blogs and site content, highlighting all uses of passive voice, it might surprise you how often you’ve allowed this little life-sucker into your content kingdom. As you write, make sure you consciously use the active voice. It not only keeps things moving along at a good pace, but it can also make your content shorter, more enjoyable to read, and more intuitive. Not sure the difference? Here are the basics:

Passive voice: To put it simply, the object of a sentence (receives the action) undeservingly becomes the subject of the sentence. Often, but not always, the use of some form of "to be" (be, is, are, was, were, etc) signifies passive voice.
For example: My dog was brought home from the animal shelter by my mom.

Active Voice: The subject of the sentence does the action.
For example: My mom brought home a dog from the animal shelter. 

Read over the two examples. Which one has a bit of drag, and which one is more to-the-point? Using more active voice in your content will be a good writing exercise and a good habit to get into, as well as a way to keep things moving along and interests piqued. 

  • Quit the Cliches: Have you ever caught yourself using a common phrase or saying, without even realizing you have no idea what it means? I have, and I’ve also cringed while I consciously used a meaningless cliche.What’s the point? Why add worthless phrases into your content if it only pulls it down and causes your readers to drift away? Here are some common cliches writers use too often:

"Think outside of the box"
"At the end of the day"
"The fact of the matter"
"Tip of the iceberg"
"Without a doubt"
"In a nutshell"
"Whole 9 yards"
"Paints a picture"

You get the idea. (Hey wait, there’s another one.) We use cliches when we go on autopilot, so just really try to follow your gut and eliminate the overused and dull phrases whenever possible. (Did you notice the additional two cliches in that sentence?)

  • Avoid Abundant Adverbs & Adjectives: (And perhaps excessive alliteration?) When we learned to write poetry and essays, our teachers most likely told us to be as descriptive as possible – to make the reader visualize everything. We used lots of "big words" and descriptors to make writing sound professional. Well, that doesn’t work anymore. Read through your sentences to find unnecessary adverbs and adjectives that drag your content down, and then, DELETE! Some examples are absolutely, extremely, very, and really. 
  • Redundancy Reeks: You don’t need to tell anyone the "honest truth" or show me the "end result." How many reduntant phrases can you find in your blogs and web content? Redundancy is as bad as using cliches, and they often overlap. Redundancy creeps into your content when you use phrases like, "Furthermore, the product also makes the process faster." Furthermore and Also, this sentence ain’t big enough for the both of you. 

*Another example would be a list of descriptors that all have the same meaning: "The guide was confusing, nonsensical, and hard to understand." 

  • Consider the Commoner: This one is pretty simple. Use language that nobody will have to use a dictionary to understand. As Charles Bukowski said, "An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way." Try to be an artist in this case. Using pretentious, stuffy language will get you nowhere with the average web reader.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to simplify writing? Share some with us!  


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