Dick's Tricks For Writing Clear, Concise Copy


By Dick Weiss


1) Write no sentence longer than 21 words. Sure, you can cheat sometimes.  But this rule will help you impose discipline, clarity and rigor in your work. Vary the length of your sentences.

2) Avoid clauses, particularly introductory clauses. The introductory clause is the writer's way of clearing his throat. Readers want you to get to the point fast. Stick to the subject-verb-object construction as often as possible.

3) Convey just one idea per sentence.

4) Use powerful verbs. Underline all the verbs in your copy. Did you find a bunch of "is'' and "are'' constructions? Can you replace those words with verbs that convey momentum and action?

5) Use bulleted points for emphasis and clarity. But don't use a sawed-off-shotgun approach. Nothing stands out in copy sprayed with bullets. Make each bullet parallel in construction with the others. For instance, notice that I start all but one item here with a verb.

6) View adjectives and adverbs with suspicion. Are they working for a living? Would the sentence read just as well without them?

7) Avoid jargon like the plague.

8) Eliminate cliches. See above.

9) Never use a big word when a simple one will do.

10) Put statements in positive form. Question every sentence that includes a not or a don't. For instance, I could have written, "Don't be negative.''