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Here is tip #25 from the book: Don’t Use Adverbs

If you want people to pay attention to what you have to say, write short. This is true in all of life, but most true at work. Most of the writing we do at work is in the format of an email, proposal or presentation – all documents that your audience wants to get through quickly. The faster and more concisely you get to your point, the more likely your reader will stick with you and understand your message. “If today the president got up and addressed the nation in 270 words, it’d be a top news story. People will pay more attention because you’re so brief,” writes Janice Obuchowski in the Harvard Management Update.

We sound most authentic when we talk, and verbally, short, simple sentence construction comes naturally to us. When we write, authenticity gets buried under poor word choice. For example, people who use complicated words are seen as not as smart as people who write with a more basic vocabulary. “It’s important to point out that this research is not about problems with using long words but about using long words needlessly,” says Daniel Oppenheimer, professor of psychology at Princeton University.

Writing short is not easy. Take the 270-word Gettysburg Address, for example. “Lincoln didn’t just suddenly master elegant language. He wrote wonderful, down to earth language that was very concrete. But he rigorously trained himself to do that,” says Bryan Garner, editor of the Dictionary of Modern American Usage.

Here are some self-editing tricks for writing shorter:

1. Write lists.
People love reading lists. They are faster and easier to read than unformatted writing, and they are more fun. If you can’t list your ideas then you aren’t organized enough to send them to someone else.

2. Think on your own time.
Most of us think while we write. But people don’t want to read your thinking process; they want to see the final result. Find your main point in each paragraph and delete everything else. If someone is dying to know your logic, they’ll ask.

3. Keep paragraphs short.
Your idea gets lost in a paragraph that’s more than four or five lines. Two lines is the best length if you really need your reader to digest each word.

4. Write like you talk.
Each of us has the gift of rhythm when it comes to sentences, which includes a natural economy of language. But you must practice writing in order to transfer your verbal gifts to the page. Start by avoiding words you never say. For example, you would never say “in conclusion” when you are speaking to someone so don’t use it when you write.

5. Delete.
When you’re finished, you’re not finished: cut 10% of the words. I do this with every column I write. Sometimes, in fact, I realize that I can cut 25% of the words, and then my word count isn’t high enough to be a column and I have to think of more things to say. Luckily, you don’t have to write for publication, so you can celebrate if you cut more than 10%. Note: It is cheating to do this step before you really think you’re done.

6. Avoid telltale signs of a rube.
Passive voice. Almost no one ever speaks this way. And on top of that, when you write it you give away that you are unclear about who is doing what because the nature of the passive voice is to obscure the person taking the action. Check yourself: search for all instances of “by” in your document. If you have a noun directly following “by” then it’s probably passive voice. Change it.

7. Avoid adjectives and adverbs.
The fastest way to a point is to let the facts speak for themselves. Adjectives and adverbs are your interpretation of the facts. If you present the right facts, you won’t need to throw in your interpretation. For example, you can say, “Susie’s project is going slowly.” Or you can say, “Susie’s project is behind schedule.” If you use the first sentence, you’ll have to use the second sentence, too, but the second sentence encompasses the first. So as you cut your adjectives and adverbs, you might even be able to cut all the sentences that contain them.

… I just checked to see if I have modifiers in this section. I do. But I think I use them well. You will think this, too, about your own modifiers, when you go back over your writing. But I have an editor, and you don’t, and I usually use a modifier to be funny, and you do not need to be funny in professional emails. So get rid of your adverbs and adjectives, really.