If in doubt, cut it out

One of the biggest shifts I see when I teach entrepreneursthe small biz writing ropes is the a-ha moment that comes when they realize they’ve been writing for the wrong person all along – themselves instead of their customer.

When it comes to writing for their business, most entrepreneurs get SO caught up in what they want to say. Every detail about your journey, products, and approach can feel critically important because you’re SO close to it. But one of the best things you can do for your writing is to take a big ol’ step back and ask yourself if your customer will give a flying… you-know-what.

Spoiler: often, the answer will be no.

And when it is? Your job is to Cut. It. Out.

Yes, even if it’s a particularly dear anecdote, or pithy sentence. In fact, you want to be especially mindful of those. My own writing teacher taught me (many MANY moons ago now) that it’s often the bits and pieces we’re most attached to that need to go.

How to ‘cut it out’

So, how do we do we go about ‘cutting it out’? Glad you asked.

First of all, don’t worry about this when you’re writing your first draft. (More on why – as well as an overview of my no-fail, much-faster writing process here – there’s even a downloadable cheat sheet you can print and keep.)

Instead, think about it when you’re editing. For your first pass over your document (which I like to call the strategic edit), look for major sections you can cut out. Ask yourself if those paragraphs are getting you closer to the objective you set for your piece  – or further away. Keep an eye out for TMI (too much – usually personal – info), repetition, and unnecessary detail – and get rid of it.

Once your strategic edit is done, it’s time for your nit-picky edit. This is when we zero-in on words, punctuation, and sentence structure. For this pass-through, look for extra words that are weighing down your sentences. (Hint: some key culprits are really, very, just, and that.)

Take out wishy-washy words like ‘probably’, and look for opportunities to turn two not-great words into a single, more succinct or powerful one. (For example, on my last edit of this post, I changed ‘happens to be’ to ‘is’ in the paragraph below – much better.)

When I edit my clients’ work (which I do often – my website tune-up is my most-popular off the shelf package), it can be jarring for them to see some of the parts that feel most important to them bite the dust. 

But remember the goal (after all, it alllllways circles back to our objective in the world of communications!) is to get you dream customer to take the next step towards working with – or buying from – you.

Don’t make them wade through confusing or unnecessary detail – it’ll almost always work against you. In the words of Chandler Bing (I’m on a serious 90s roll today, clearly), get there faster. Your customers – and your biz – will thank you for it.