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Brendan Cooper is Editor-in-Chief at byyd, the leading mobile Demand-side Platform.

Word count compression tricks – and a challenge

Three things that kept cropping up in a proofing session today:

  • Various.“We need to write various reports.” Aargh! Get rid of it! You don’t need ‘various’ at all. Give it a rest. You need to write some reports, many reports, or just ‘reports’.
  • In order to.“In order to produce babies we need to stick our fingers in each other’s tummy buttons.” Aaargh! Get rid of it! ‘In order’ is totally redundant, always. In fact you could say it’s out of order. To sleep, perchance to dream. Not in order to.
  • Designed to.“This car is designed to fall apart in six years.” Aaaaaaargh! Get rid of it! Either it’s designed to do something, or it isn’t. If a car is designed to fall apart in six years, then it will fall apart in six years goddammit. If it doesn’t, the designer got it wrong.

I’m a big fan of saying the same thing in fewer words. I generally find I can reduce a piece of text by at least 25 percent. In other words, I end up with 75 percent of the original word count but say exactly the same thing in virtually exactly the same way, but because I’m using fewer words it comes across much more quickly and, therefore, I hope, effectively.

In fact, if anyone’s reading this blog – which I doubt – then here’s a challenge: send me some text and I’ll reduce its word count by at least 25 percent. Go on, try me.

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10 Comments on “Word count compression tricks – and a challenge”

  1. sarah November 14, 2008 at 2:55 am #

    Do you still want to do this? ‘Cause I have an essay that needs to be reduced by about 60 words, and I DON’T THINK YOU CAN DO IT!

  2. Brendan November 14, 2008 at 10:26 am #

    OK, well I’m not a copywriter any more (officially at least), I’m far too busy to do anything more than I already am, plus I’m moving house so have no time and probably no broadband quite soon.

    But I bet I could. ;)

    Providing it’s not currently standing at, say, 61 words. ;)

  3. sarah January 11, 2009 at 7:26 am #

    Ah every time I write an essay I will end up on here I think.
    Managed to do that last one on my own! AMAZING. But I’m on the job again, of course.
    I hope you are enjoying your new house!

  4. Brendan January 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    Nice one!

    I’m enjoying the house, but not the broadband – see http://brendancooper.com/2009/01/13/virgin-media-and-bt-both-be-damned/

  5. Aliasger August 1, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    I could really do with your assistance in cutting down the number of words in my report by about 20%!


  6. Brendan August 9, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    Then get in touch and I’ll see what I can do. :)

  7. Aliasger August 10, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    How do I send you the report….

    I could do with reducing about 200 words on this 12 page report.


  8. Brendan August 10, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    The Contact page would be a good start!

    Go to http://brendancooper.com/contact/, tell me more about what you want, that’ll come through to my email, then I can reply, and we take it from there.

  9. delikwu January 5, 2012 at 12:30 am #

    If your still doing this i have a paper due that is about 700 words over the word count… Think you can handle the challenge?

  10. Brendan January 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Ah, I would take up the challenge but I’m afraid I no longer specialise in copywriting (although I am still, by nature, a writer).

    When you say 700 words over however, out of how many is that? Because if you’re 700 words over, and the piece is supposed to be 1,000 words long, then that’s a problem. But if you’re 700 words over and it’s a 10,000 word dissertation then that shouldn’t be too difficult.

    Given that 700 words is generally going to be quite a lot, my recommendation would be to look for entire sentences that can go. If that doesn’t do it, look for entire paragraphs. Believe me, there will be sentences and paragraphs that, with a critical eye, you’ll see reallly can just be chucked out wholesale.

    Good luck with it!