Sometimes the best solution to a problem is the simplest one. Overweight? Eat less. Low on funds? Sell the flowery china you inherited from your great aunt.
Flabby, non-engaging web content? Cut it in half. Sometimes the best thing you can do to your web content is just make it shorter by half.
My experiment: halve the word count at consulting company’s web page
Through a random Google search, I found Blue Jay Consulting’s “Approach“
page and decided to use it test my edit-with-machete technique. (Full disclosure: I don’t know anyone at Blue Jay Consulting or anything about the company; I’m not a hater or a fan.) Here’s the original content at 153 words:
Our goal is to optimize the performance of every organization with which we work. We figure out how to maximize the capability of systems and personnel alike. Our techniques are proven, our consultants are respected and our clients benefit from quantifiable results.
We base all of our efforts on the following general approach:
- Conduct a thorough assessment of the department. What’s not working, what’s not making sense? Where are the problems, where are the opportunities?
- Dive into day-to-day operations to gain insight into your organization’s performance.
- Present a set of recommendations for department-wide improvements.
- Partner with personnel from all areas of the hospital — including administration, physicians and front-line staff — in problem-solving efforts.
- Remain in place during the implementation of new process and system improvements in order to manage the change and provide support.
- Maintain ongoing contact with clients to ensure sustainability of achieved successes.
My 50-percent-shorter version (76 words)
We improve your organization’s performance by maximizing the capabilities
of your systems and personnel. Our consultants employ our proven six-step approach to gain you quantifiable results:
- Assess the department to discover problems and opportunities.
- Analyze day-to-day operations to understand the department’s performance.
- Recommend improvements.
- Partner with administration, physicians, and front-line staff to solve problems.
- Provide support while you implement new processes.
- Maintain contact so you can sustain your successes.
What I learned from my cut-content-by-half experiment
- This was hard work, which I couldn’t accomplish in one sitting. I had to do this word whittling in several rounds.
- I may have inadvertently altered the meaning of this content, so if you’re cutting your own content by half, be careful.
- Shorter isn’t always better. I kind of liked the original sentence “Our techniques are proven, our consultants are respected and our clients benefit from quantifiable results.” My version is shorter, but it doesn’t have the rhythm of the original: “Our consultants employ our proven six-step approach to gain you quantifiable results…“
Are you game? Try this 50-percent-less experiment on your content and let me know whether the task was difficult and whether you like the shorter version. If you’d like, we’ll link to your new, streamlined content here (especially if you’ll show us the longer version too).
— Leslie O’FlahavanTags: Content, Editing
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” (Attributed to, well, just about everyone: Twain, Proust, Eliot, Jefferson, Pascal…)
I appreciate your taking on examples, rather than just giving advice. And isn’t it easier to edit someone else’s copy than our own?
Here’s my cut at it. It’s not quite half, depending on how you count, but it preserves (exposes?) a little of the music. Some word choices are idiosyncratic–I like “ground truth,” but I have an intelligence community background, and that may not resonate with everyone.
If I had to cut further, I’d start losing steps. Five points would be better than six, anyhow, in the marketing conventional wisdom.
Thanks for your comments, David. I love your cut-by-half rewrite and I hate that it’s better than mine! Your version has more life and energy. I think I got a little blinded by the challenge.
I have been doing this cut and rewrite for 20 years and I am generally satisfied with cutting 30%.
It’s always easier to bat clean-up! My action verb for each bullet format has the disadvantage that I can’t do something as wonderful as your “3. Recommend improvements.”
Of course, clear writing is only as good as the thoughts it is expressing. As someone who is rethinking our offerings, value proposition, and messaging for the first time since 2006 or so, I can tell you that even EWRITE’s rewrite of my old website wouldn’t be very good — we just didn’t have that stuff figured out then.
Ideally, if Blue Jay sees your crisp rewrite, they’ll think, “wow, these points aren’t nearly as important as these other ones,” and the improvement will continue.
@Cheryl – I agree 30% is a wonderful place to land. But isn’t Leslie’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal an exciting place to start?