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Tips for Concise Writing

Writing about music is a form of technical writing. As such, to be most useful, it needs to be crafted concisely. The goal is to help your readers understand the concept quickly, and put it into practice immediately.

The following list comes from my seminar, Ten Tips for Concise Writing. I hope that you find them useful.

Ten Tips for Concise Writing

1. Hate verbiage. Words will require work for everybody. Cheer any major or minor revision that yields fewer words for you. Omit self-evident language that you write.

2. Organize your ideas, then write. Omit/change words that distract from or somehow stand between your reader and your service to your ideas.

3. Right-size it. Plan the appropriate length for your text before you start writing. Even if the material contains valid and well-crafted information, if the length is inappropriate for the function of the writing (such as short points in a helpful list of tips), recognize that the extra words are a distraction from your task at hand. Reading requires work and time. Make your reader’s task easier by keeping your text at an appropriate length for its function. A goal when you’re editing is to make sure that the text length is appropriate for the overall piece.

4. Omit truly unnecessary intensifiers.

5. I would Omit unnecessary personalization. Similarly, you must be sure to omit unnecessarily bossy language.

6. Omit redundancy and unnecessary repetition.

7. Keep sentences short. , and uUse multiple sentences when possible.

8. Begin strong. It’s a good idea to Begin sentences with interesting words—verbs and unusual nouns. Can you omit any boring words?

9. Stop writing once you’ve said it—even if it means nine tips, rather than ten.


When you're trying to make text as clear and concise as possible, try keeping these three simple questions ("Feist's Trident") foremost in your mind:

1. What's the big idea?

2. What's in?

3. What's out?

In other words, what are you trying to say, and what is the clearest way to say it? This can help you craft language to be useful to your reader, without the distraction of unnecessary words.

Jonathan Feist is Managing Editor of Berklee Press.


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Published: 03/02/2007