The Art of Concision: How to Effectively Make Your Point in Fewer Words


Posted by Isla_McKetta

You and your readers are being bombarded with information. Too often that's in the shape of long-winded emails, blog posts, and reports that say very little or assume that because digital space is (virtually) free and unlimited, so is your time.

But time and attention are valuable. If you learn to practice concision in all your writing (from emails and reports to blog posts, whitepapers, and product copy), you'll not only get your point across, you might also earn your readers' trust, gratitude, and repeat traffic. Plus, concise copy converts better.

Quick advice on writing concisely

The best advice I ever received about writing concisely came from former newspaperman (and current Moz associate) Ronell Smith. He said that in order to clearly get your point across in the fewest possible words it's essential to:

  • Write a one-sentence description of the post you wish to write (this is basically the headline)
  • Think of the number one thing you'd like readers to take away from the post
  • Highlight at least three facts (authoritative, supportive evidence) that support this main point
  • Jot down notes that help you tell the story using these facts
  • Spend a few days letting the elements "breathe"

Now if I were writing the most concise blog post ever, I'd stop right there, because Ronell already said the most important things. But sometimes it's helpful to see how someone else puts advice into action. So here's how I'm putting Ronell's advice to work to write a post about concision.

Write a one-sentence description of the post

Learning how to make your point in as few words as possible will help you capture your audience's attention.

I could (and should) stop there. But I want to make a couple of points about why this is important:

  • Your brain does a lot of work as it's trying to condense that amazing idea in your head down into one sentence—as much work as creating a whole first draft.
  • Once you have a one-sentence description of where you're going, it's easy to toss aside all those other exciting ideas that try to plant themselves on the page and focus on what you wanted to say in the first place.

Think of the number one thing you'd like readers to take away from the post

Fewer words often makes for clearer, more impactful communication. Once I know exactly what it is that I want you to take away from this post, I can make a promise that everything will contribute to that number one goal. This is good because:

  • It helps you focus on one audience. When you're writing amazing tips on keyword research, it can be really easy to want to also remind readers why keyword research is important. That's the moment when you lose the interest of people who get the whys of keyword research. They are now bored and done with you (even though you were just about to blow their minds with really revolutionary information).
  • You know what to lead with. Even if you're writing a crucial email, you can bet not everyone will read every word (or paragraph). By leading with the most important part, your message is more likely to be understood.

Highlight at least three facts that support this main point

Technically, I've been cheating so far and adding in facts along the way. This step will help you:

  • Build an outline of what you want to say. It's easier to write to outlines and you'll be sure to include all the points you wanted to see.
  • Preview the quality of your argument. If you're writing an article about how content is king and your first fact is "because everyone says so" and the second is "readers share stuff" and you're struggling for a third fact, go back and find a stronger argument.
  • Stay on topic.

Jot down notes that help you tell the story using those three facts

Hooray! You finally get to elaborate. I'll start my elaboration by telling you that I've deleted about 500 words from this post already just because I was thinking so hard about concision. Do I miss a little of my standard whimsy and storytelling style? Yes (although I'm making up for it in this paragraph).

Because you've already honed in tight on your subject, you can let your creative self a little loose now. Enjoy embellishing your evidence with relevant examples and case studies. Relish the chance to make your points more memorable and engage your audience by sharing pertinent stories.

Spend a few days letting the elements "breathe"

Once you've pulled together your main point with supporting facts and illustrated those with stories, you need to step away from your writing. If you're writing an email, you might not have a few days, but at least go to lunch or grab a coffee. Giving your writing room to breathe allows you to:

  • Spot gaps. Everything makes perfect sense in your head, but a breath of fresh air might help you see where you forgot to actually write down a crucial piece of your argument.
  • See redundancies. Sometimes you're so passionate about something you say it twice (although usually in slightly different ways). A second, later read can show you where you're repeating yourself.
  • Be rational. Speaking of passion, sometimes we write things we'd never actually want to see out in the world. Allowing your writing to rest can help you make your point without saying anything you wouldn't want repeated. This makes you easier to listen to as well.

The rest of the story

Now that we've seen Ronell's points in action, there are a few more things I want to add.

Concision usually happens in editing

If you've been following Ronell's advice, your writing is going to be a lot clearer, shorter, and more impactful. But don't count on your first draft to be the best draft. You can usually clean up a lot of extra words (and random errors) with a second draft.

Why concision?

You're busy. Your boss is busy. Your reader is busy. We're all reading less and less of the information presented to us. But reading is still a critical way that we share information. By learning to say more with fewer words, you'll get your point across and come out on top.

Concision ain't easy

In fact, you might spend more time crafting your message. Making your point makes that time and effort worth the extra work. Take the Moz Top 10 for example: over the last six editions, the ones with the fewest number of words have had the highest click-through rates.

ctr rate concise copy

Shortening the Moz Top 10 often takes me an extra draft, but that kind of increase in CTR is worth one more pass.

How this works at Moz

I was shocked when Trevor and I found that the most popular Moz blog posts (usually) come in at 1,200-1,800 words. That seemed long to me (especially for the Internet), but then I realized how much advice and education are usually packed into one post.

Compare that with what we sometimes see in YouMoz, which are initial drafts of 4,000-8,000 words. I am certain that a few of those authors have that much valuable information to share about one topic. But my guess is that most of those articles are trying to do too much in one post or are repeating themselves unnecessarily. I'd also be really surprised if most readers manage to reach the end of a post that long. That's the real tragedy of overly wordy writing: No matter how brilliant you are, unless you are the most engaging writer ever, no one is reading what you're writing. And according to one study, visitors only read 18% of content beyond the 1,250 word mark.

Do you have tips for stripping the bloat from your writing? Or do you truly love (and actually read) long-form writing on the web? Write me a novel in the comments ☺

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By |March 17th, 2015|MOZ|0 Comments

What is Meerkat? Founder explains most-discussed app of SXSW


"The meerkats are moving in colonies, and they're always alerted of what's going on," says Ben Rubin, founder of live-streaming app Meerkat, which has become the most-discussed app at SXSW this year

In this video, Rubin, together with Ryan Cooley, community manager of Meerkat, explain what the app aims to achieve.

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By |March 16th, 2015|Apps and Software|0 Comments

Tesla founder Elon Musk promises to end ‘range anxiety’ with Model S update


When people think about the practicality of electric cars, one of the first concerns is battery life, particularly given the ever-hungry batteries in our mobile devices.

On Sunday, Tesla founder Elon Musk promised to erase those fears completely, a claim that, if true, could boost interest among those worried about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere while looking at a blinking "battery drained" dashboard symbol

The news came via Musk's Twitter feed, where he promised to deliver an over the air software update that will "end range anxiety." ...

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9 Simple Tips For Making An About Us Page That Works For Your Brand


Posted by Ben.Austin

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.

For too many online companies the About Us page is the elephant in the room, and often the most awkward thing to write. It's a shame because analytics often shows the page as one of the most frequented on any website. Imagine a ceremonial elephant adorned in his embellished head plate, raising you above your competitors. This could be your About Us page if you show it the care and attention it deserves.

The good news is your about page doesn't require several hundred pounds of vegetation on a daily basis, nor is there any real need for expensive antique rhinestones.

The bad news is crafting the perfect about page is easier said than done. Many find it difficult to strike the right balance between selling themselves to their customers and driving them away with a self-focused approach, which helps explain why the pages are so often neglected.

At Absolute, we're looking to revamp our entire website over the coming months, and in particular we'll be focusing our attention on our about page. We recognize that our page is currently a little on the dull side and while we are researching the topic, I thought it would be great to share nine great, easily applicable techniques we picked up from some of our favorite About Us pages from around the web.

Start by talking about your audience, not yourself

Human nature dictates that we are, first and foremost, concerned with our own problems. While some of us may give to charity or volunteer in our spare time, when it comes to searching for products or services online, we're all about ourselves and what a brand can do for us.

Blog Tyrant is a great example of a blog that is focused on its visitors. The first thing you see when you land on their about page is a video titled "About Me and You." The text that follows is then split into two sections, "About Me" and "About You (The Tyrant Troops)."

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If this frank, upfront style doesn't suit your company there are more subtle ways to become more customer-orientated.

  • Dedicate your opening sentence(s) to your audience's challenges and objectives. Starting with the very reason they come to your site in the first place is a good way to demonstrate that you have their needs in mind. In our case, for example, it might be a good idea to acknowledge the difficulties marketing managers have in finding an agency that combines creativity with the essential technical skills, which can sometimes be overlooked.
  • State the facts: If you're still finding it hard to strike a happy medium between highlighting your selling points and plain boasting, then simply present your readers with the facts. This could be anything from your client retention rate to the amount of new products you offer each month to the number of awards you've collected. No one can argue with raw figures.

Let your customers do the talking

When you are thinking of trying out a new hairdresser, dentist or even a fish and chip shop, you don't base your decision on what they say about themselves. You turn to those around you. By including a few glowing (and up-to-date) customer testimonials on your about page, you can create a hub of information.

  • Be sure to include the customer or client's full name and any relevant details that could add credibility to your testimonials. Better still, include photos of your customers, if possible. It all helps to build trust in your brand.
  • Include customer-focused awards and accreditations. Perhaps you were voted your area's favorite provider of security products in 2013, or maybe you are part of some authoritative bodies or organisations within your industry. Exploit the instinctive human need to seek reassurance from our peers.

Include different forms of media

Make your about page a feast for the eyes by considering the use of photos, timelines, videos or infographics. If people are going to seek and find your about page, it makes sense to capture their attention for as long as possible, and this is precisely what Moz does. Their timeline incorporates strong image and design while still providing visitors with the key information they need.


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  • Photos don't necessarily need to be of each individual team member. Although individual head shots do help prospective customers visualize your company, head shots of management, photos of you in action at a fundraising event or even images from a work night out (preferably ones that aren't likely to spark legal action), can all add character to your brand.
  • Videos are a great way of entertaining those with particularly short attention spans and can sum up the feeling of your company in a matter of seconds or minutes. If you don't have extensive time or resources in this area, Vine videos are a great way to add something different to your about page.

Tell your story

Even if your brand doesn't have an interesting story, you can still tell a story. Focus on the things that make you human.

That's precisely what a client of ours, ITS, has done with their About Us page. Unfortunately it's not something we can take credit for personally, but it still embodies everything a great story should have. It starts at the beginning, documenting their modest founding, in 1981 as a 150 square foot shop, all the way to modern day, with plenty of photos along the way. It's great to see the quality of the photos changing through time, almost like a family scrapbook. Customer ratings and social icons make this page even stronger.


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  • Don't be afraid of where you have come from. If, eight years ago, your headquarters happened to be your CEO's conservatory, celebrate it. The more that people can identify with you the more trust they'll place in your brand. We have become so desensitized to marketing that a company needs a personal touch to set it apart.
  • You don't have to tell people everything. If you have been established for 80 years, people don't want to read a year-by-year account of everything that has happened in that time. Therefore, filter information accordingly, mentioning those key elements of human interest, but keep tales of new windows or a change of paper suppliers to yourself.

Include your address and contact details

Many people are still hesitant when it comes to parting with their money over the Internet and are thus keen to know you aren't simply looking to fleece them to make a bit of extra cash.

  • If you don't want to disclose your full address, at least state your city or town. Potential customers are not so likely to get in touch if you're less than forthcoming about your location. After all, what else might you be holding back?
  • Make certain your contact details are up to date. It sounds obvious, but having an out-of-date telephone number or email address could not only lose you a sale but might also send alarm bells ringing.
  • Your contact details should also include social handles and skype details if applicable.

Cut out the jargon

Writing in acronym-infested jargon might make you feel clever at the time, but it's boring and it's cold. People won't remember you. What they really want when they land on your about page is to learn, in simple unambiguous terms, precisely what you do.

  • Write conversationally. There is no best way to write. The style you adopt will depend on your company, but make an effort to write in a way that makes your content, and your site, feel accessible and friendly. The Adventurists site offers a great example of this. Their about page serve its intended purpose and is quite enjoyable to read. More to the point when they talk about "mobile phones tagged with twattery about which restaurant serves the best mocha-latte-frappeshite", you find yourself agreeing with them, even if their greater aim of getting youto cross the sub-continent in a three wheeled lawnmower powered tin isn't likely to happen anytime soon.
  • Don't name your about page some obscure name like, Our Ethos, or The Journey. People are looking for an About Us page, so give them one. Come up with a name that is too vague and people may miss you completely.

Ask for other peoples' opinions

Don't be afraid to ask employees, friends, peers, even clients, what makes you stand out as a business. When you have worked somewhere for a long time, it is tough to see your brand the way customers might see it. An objective opinion can help.

  • When you have decided on what makes you stand out, be sure to make this a focus.
  • If your peer search becomes more like soul-searching because you find there is actually nothing different about your company, despair not. Don't try and force something that isn't there. Instead, turn it around and focus on what makes your audience unique.

Make sure it reflects your company

In our quest for the perfect about page, we came across some really extravagant examples. Some had really impressive videos, special features or high tech designs. All of those examples were extremely applaudable, but will only really work if this fits in with the rest of your website, your industry and your company as a whole. It's easy to lose sight of who you are in your mission to create the best page possible.

  • Even if your website isn't overly visual, you can still include photos, just make sure they follow the same format as the rest of your website. If your site focuses on boxy shapes and bold colors, then keep this theme running throughout your images. Just as with your marketing, the key is to be succinct. Maintaining a consistent look and feel automatically gives your brand more authority.
  • The same goes applies for tone. Remember, in today's multi-platform society, your website may not be someone's first interaction with you, with visitors often reading an article or coming across a tweet beforehand. In that sense, an about page is almost like a meeting point, an amalgamation of everything that makes your brand who you are.

Test it!

There is no magic formula for about pages. If there were, you probably wouldn't be 2,000 words into this blog. A good way to treat the process of creating such a page, then, is as a work in progress.

  • Don't be afraid to make amendments. Spend a fair amount of time checking your analytics for traffic volumes, bounce rate and visit duration on the page. Tweak the odd sentence, add images, chop them out, introduce a video, etc, based on what the data tells you.
  • Make sure the page is accessible across all devices. It makes no sense to spend all this time creating an amazing page that is only visible to a small percentage of your audience, which is roughly what will happen if you ignore mobile and tablet users. Whether you have responsive design or a dedicated mobile site, test the performance of the page continually.

Of all the pages we looked at, our favorite is the one below, from Macmillan. Their About Us section is actually split into different pages, but the initial page makes use of video, explains briefly and simply what they do, includes contact details, testimonials and, most important, thanks people for their continued support.

Those readers who then want to learn more, as undoubtedly many will, can do so via links directing them to images of the team, as well as facts, figures and corporate partnership details. It might not be as flashy or as up to date as some, but it's what best represents them and that's the point.


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By |March 15th, 2015|MOZ|0 Comments

Meerkat users grew 30% after Twitter crackdown, company says


AUSTIN, Texas — Twitter tried raining on Meerkat's parade last Friday when it cut off the app's ability to access the microblogging network's social graph. But apparently, those efforts failed.

Meerkat, a live-streaming app that automatically tweets out a link to your followers, saw its user base jump at least 30%, Ryan Cooley, the company's community director, told Mashable.

Cooley would not specify how many Meerkat users there currently are, but the app reportedly had ...

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By |March 15th, 2015|Apps and Software|0 Comments