I used to be what you call 'wordy' - everything I said had to be expressed in the most prolific manner possible. I didn't do it on purpose, though; it was just a part of who I was. I admired wordy people (Cornel West probably being the worst of the bunch), I was a lover of literature, and I was an aspiring writer to boot.
(If you're not rolling your eyes, you're probably an English teacher or a wordy birdie yourself...)
So, I knew a lot of words, and I used them...ALL of them...all the time.
When you're writing in hopes of being canonized, that might be the way to go. However, I learned the hard way that if you're writing for business or for a broad audience, being wordy only serves to annoy people and muck up your message.
Here are five tips to help you say more with less and actually connect with an audience consisting of more than just book worms and college professors:
1) Sum up your entire message in one sentence, NO MATTER WHAT. In writing composition, a thesis statement is the writer's proposition, or the point that he or she is looking to make. A thesis statement (not to be confused with the thesis paragraph) is one sentence, period. If you can't make your point in one sentence, your point is not yet clear enough for you to try and communicate.
2) Write an outline. When I was in school, I absolutely despised outlines. They were a lot of work, and they seemed to stifle my creativity. The reality, however, is that outlines are literary lifesavers; after you compose a thorough outline, your composition will really write itself. An outline will also help you to stay on target and not stray too far to the right or to the left when elaborating on segments of your message that you may feel more strongly about.
3) Write as if your audience only has an 8th grade education. The truth is that they probably do; the average American reads at an 8th or 9th grade level. So, if you are Sir or Lady Snootypants, you will lose most people, which is counterproductive. If you write for profit, you absolutely MUST find the lowest common denominator and build upon it. Remember, the point is to communicate effectively, not just to express yourself.
4) Proofread with a red pen and cross out ANY and ALL unnecessary words. No matter how pithy and conservative you think you are in your writing, you can probably go back and remove some redundancies and fluff. Particularly when you're passionate about your topic, it's easy to say the same thing over and over without knowing it. In writing, enthusiasm usually equals redundancy, so swallow your pride, pull out the red pen, and cross out what you don't absolutely need to communicate your main idea.
5) Become active on Twitter. If you're not yet on Twitter, you've got to try it. It's a virtual writing exercise that forces you to communicate your message in 140 characters or less. Not 140 words, 140 characters. I find myself typing out what I want to say and then cutting the fat afterward to make it fit. Communicating on Twitter really helps condition writers to cut waste and fluff in their writing. When and if you are on Twitter, add me as a friend!
Keep it simple, get to the point, and get out of there!
To your continued success,