An Aggressive Approach to Concise Writing

A webinar presented by Joe Welinske of WritersUA

STC-SM was offered a rare opportunity to view a webinar during the workday and it just so happened to be the same day that our BCBSM/BCN provider communications staff meeting was being held. Golden opportunity! My manager loved the idea, so we included the webinar in our agenda for the month.

Joe began by pointing out that the information and techniques that he would be discussing were developed to transition input that had been developed for laptops and desktops to formats for smaller devices such as PDAs, iPhones, Androids, tablets, etc. He said his goal is usually to pare the content down by two-thirds. He remarked that he teaches these techniques in his TC101 classes and I then recalled that we also did several exercises such as these in my Tech Comm classes. But he pointed out that this approach also helps to tighten your content for usability and readability for things like CBTs where you are writing in a small bubble or speaking in concise sentences.

Here are a few of the rules that Joe laid out before we began the exercises:
• Use active voice
• Use simple verbs
• Use language consistently
• Avoid lengthy compound words
• Use relatively short sentences
• Jetison things that are intuitively obvious
• Keep to 3-4 steps when possible

Joe pointed us to a useful resource for plain language that lists words and phrases that can be problematic and provides alternative words or phrases.

We spent the rest of the hour going through several examples of text that needed to be pared down. Joe’s examples were excellent and we were treated to some really ruthless editing! I know I picked up some helpful hints that I can apply to my daily work. Several others appreciated the presentation as well and remarked that he had a good variety of samples for mobile sites that he liked as well as handy reference tools.

So our takeaway was “less is more” when writing – you don’t have to spell everything out for people, and stop being wordy, you wordsmiths!
See Joe’s website for more information about him, his webinars, and WritersUA.

2 thoughts on “An Aggressive Approach to Concise Writing”

  1. Great job on summarizing this event, Sharon – thanks for taking the time to do it. It sounds like many of Joe’s points would apply to effective technical writing for any application, not just for certain situations like mobile devices. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tom. Yes, Joe’s points would apply to most writing applications.

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