Word counts are a bit of a sore subject in the world of freelance copywriting. Some writers dread the idea of writing to a word count, feeling that it inhibits their creativity. At the same time, there are many writers who frequently obliterate word counts, giving clients hundreds more words than they requested. While writers may sometimes feel good about providing clients with a little something extra, the truth is that they’re giving those extra words away for nothing. What’s more, those words might be better used with a little more care.
The notion of word trimming goes against virtually everything writers have learned over the years. Since grade school, writers have been taught to pump their writing full of extra words, turning mediocre papers into a grandiose statements. Unlearning these tricks is difficult, but it can be done. And in some ways, it’s a necessary step in the development of a good freelance writer.
Stick With The Facts
The easiest way to more concise work? Give the client exactly what they want. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t editoralize, and don’t add anything that you think the client might like to see. Just bang it out and move on. A no-frills article can often be more effective than you think.
Don’t Repeat Yourself
Writers often like to phrase themselves in different ways. This is usually a good thing. However, it becomes a problem when writers present the same information multiple times in an article. This jacks up the word count while adding nothing to the piece. Not a good thing when you’re trying to keep your word count on the lower side.
You might not catch yourself doing this while you’re writing. But you can catch yourself pretty easily if you know to look for redundant phrases and paragraphs. These repeats often occur within sentences of each other, so keep your guard up and remember the point you’re trying to make.
Drop the First and Last Paragraph
Many writers are accustomed to writing introduction and conclusion paragraphs. However, these paragraphs are often unnecessary. Web readers have a limited attention span, and a lengthy introduction that adds minimal value isn’t the way to hook an inpatient reader.
By ditching your intro, you’ll remove as many as a hundred words from your submission. If you do the same with your conclusion, you could double that amount. Of course, if your client asks for a conclusion or an introduction, you should definitely include one. Just make sure the content you submit is relevant to the article as a whole.
Back to the Start
It’s very easy for writers to lose a bit of perspective as they write. That is to say, they interpret instructions as they start a piece, and that interpretation becomes their guiding voice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always jive with the actual instructions, creating a disconnect that can send the writer veering off course.
As you proofread your piece, you should always compare your writing with the instructions of the client. This will help you to ensure that you’ve written a focused piece that’s totally on point throughout. You’ll also show clients that you’re capable of following instructions, which will go a long way in terms of getting repeat work.
Bryan B is a freelance writer based in Long Island, NY. He loves hot chocolate, but hates waiting for it to be cool enough to drink.