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You’ll find 60 words in the typical sentence written in the 1500s. This word count gradually drifted down to 21 in 1850 or so. It dropped to 19 words in 2000. And the trend continues to this very day — where we are at 16 words on average.

It’s a whole different world for law firms — the typical sentence in a law firm’s thought leadership piece is 31 words long — almost twice the length of other text today. These extra words are the 15 reasons people don’t read thought pieces.

Readers want short, direct, conclusionary sentences. They are likely to stop reading around 25 words — it’s just too long.

Here are some tips to punch up your message and shorten your word count:

    • Talk through your keyboard
      Most people speak differently than they write. The closer you can talk through your keyboard instead of writing — the shorter your text will be.
    • Break your existing long sentences into shorter sentences
      Get your thoughts down first. Then go back and break them into short sentences. Or, enlist an editor.
    • Don’t write without an editor
      They will use their skill and approach to whittle those long sentences down to their sharpest points.
    • Listen to your editor
      It’s easy to reject the edits and cling to our favorite words. Every successful writer relies on an editor.
    • Eliminate the word “that”
      This will make sentences shorter and active while resulting in fewer words.
    • Add words ending in “ing”
      This too eliminates extra words and adds a more engaging active voice.

In the words of the late B.B. King: “Notes are expensive… spend them wisely”. The same is true for words. The less the better.

Best in the market ahead.

The Mad Clientist

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