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Having Trouble Saying What You Want to Say?

Have you ever tried to tell a whole story in 140 characters or less? That’s how short a tweet on Twitter must be if you want to leave room for others to share and comment.

Now, I have no prob­lem speak­ing for an hour with zero prepa­ra­tion, and when I do, I get rave reviews from audi­ences. But when I deliv­ered a 15 minute TEDx talk, I spent two months prepar­ing and still didn’t deliv­er as well as I’d want­ed. Deliv­er­ing an effec­tive mes­sage that will influ­ence oth­ers in 140 char­ac­ters is tough work. This is espe­cial­ly true when the prod­ucts and ser­vices you offer are com­pli­cat­ed. Take busi­ness account­ing ser­vices, for exam­ple.

Account­ing is not known for its sim­plic­i­ty,” Brad Han­ks, VP of growth at account­ing soft­ware start­up, Zip­Books, told me. “Deb­its and cred­its can get messy, and con­tent mar­ket­ing is hard to mas­ter in gen­er­al, let alone when [you’re] try­ing to reach poten­tial clients on Twit­ter.”

For those of you try­ing to shrink your tweets, or tight­en any oth­er writ­ing you do, here are some tips to help you get your point across in short order.

1. Say it once.

Redun­dan­cy in writ­ing is a com­mon prob­lem, but it’s easy to fix. Here’s an exam­ple:

Orig­i­nal tweet: We put your data in the cloud, so you can access it online when­ev­er you want.

Revised tweet: We put your data in the cloud, so you can access it when­ev­er you want.

Com­ment: We already know the cloud is online, so remove “online” to con­serve pre­cious char­ac­ters.

2. Get to the point.

Sim­plic­i­ty keeps your sen­tences short and clear. Here’s how the for­mer gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia, Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger, tweet­ed his sup­port of the Paris Agree­ment.

Orig­i­nal tweet: So much for the idea that pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment kills jobs. CA leads in job growth, pump­ing up the US econ­o­my.

Com­ment: For some­one nick­named “The Ter­mi­na­tor„ this goes on far too long. He could have got­ten the same point across faster and bet­ter:

Revised tweet: Pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment cre­ates a job. CA leads growth in jobs AND reg­u­la­tions.

3. Get rid of intensifiers.

Adver­bial inten­si­fiers, like “very,” add empha­sis to an adjec­tive. Stephen King (whose book On Writ­ing is a must-read for writ­ers, even if you don’t like any­thing else King has writ­ten) said, “The road to hell is paved with adjec­tives,” so let’s get rid of those as well while we’re at it. I admire the work of expert writer Dar­ren Rowse over at @problogger, so I dug through Rowse’s Twit­ter feed to test a hypoth­e­sis. As I sus­pect­ed there was not an inten­si­fi­er to be found.

4. Cut filler words.

Includ­ing such phras­es as “it is,” “there are,” etc., adds no mean­ing. See how a small tweak can jazz up a tweet from @SteveKrak (for­mer­ly of CNN and The­Blaze):

Orig­i­nal tweet: BREAKING: Comey state­ment con­firms what­ev­er it is you per­son­al­ly believed about Pres­i­dent Trump before the state­ment was released.

Revised tweet: BREAKING: Comey state­ment con­firms what you believed about Pres­i­dent Trump before the state­ment was released.

William Zinss­er, the author of On Writ­ing Well, wrote, “Look for the clut­ter in your writ­ing and prune it ruth­less­ly. Be grate­ful for every­thing you can throw away.”

5. Don’t “think,” don’t “believe.” Just say it.

Avoid phras­es like “I think,” “I believe,” etc. These words are unnec­es­sary. If you’re say­ing it, peo­ple assume that you’ve thought about it and that you believe it, unless, of course, you’re a politi­cian.

6. Stay active.

Active voice keeps your tweets short and sweet because it’s clear right away who’s doing what. Keep­ing verbs active is a great way to com­mu­ni­cate the same amount of infor­ma­tion with few­er char­ac­ters.

Orig­i­nal tweet: Cus­tomers with ques­tions can be helped by Mary.

Revised tweet: Mary can help cus­tomers with ques­tions.

In the sec­ond ver­sion, Mary is active­ly help­ing cus­tomers with ques­tions. Mary is active. So, be like Mary.

7. Use contraction subtraction.

Even if you save only a cou­ple of char­ac­ters by using con­trac­tions, you’ll have that much more room to respond and retweet your tweets. If it fits your brand, you can also use short­en­ers, like “w/” instead of “with” and “&” instead of “and.”

Orig­i­nal tweet: The Cleve­land Cav­a­liers are not out of the run­ning yet!

Revised tweet: The Cleve­land Cav­a­liers aren’t out of the run­ning yet!

If you want to have an out­sized influ­ence on oth­ers, learn to be con­cise. Albert Ein­stein said, “If you can’t explain it sim­ply, you don’t under­stand it well enough.” Brevi­ty is dif­fi­cult, yet with the lim­it­ed space on social media, it’s more impor­tant than ever that you hook your audi­ence in the few sec­onds — and char­ac­ters — you have.

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By | 2017-10-16T08:14:58+00:00 October 16th, 2017|Industry News|Comments Off on Having Trouble Saying What You Want to Say?