Welcome back to my Writing Consultant Series! Last week we talked about how to overcome that pesky self-doubt that we all experience from time to time, so if you are just joining us I would recommend you read that as well! Today we are talking about how you can use your Twitter addiction to improve your writing; more specifically we are talking about how Twitter can help you write more concisely. This is a fantastic writing trick that I have taught tons of the writers I work with to use, including quite a few who had never really used Twitter much before, so don’t worry if you don’t share my addiction.
What Does It Mean To Write Concisely and Why Does it Even Matter?
The ability to write clearly and concisely is something that separates good writing from great writing, whether you are writing articles, blog posts, or fictional stories. But what does writing concisely really mean? When people hear the word concise they tend to think of using short sentences. In reality, however, writing concisely does not mean writing sentences that use fewer words, but rather writing sentences in which every word serves a purpose. It means cutting out anything that is unnecessary and getting straight to the point.
Why? It’s simple really. First, it ensures that your message does not get lost drifting in a sea of unnecessary words. Writing that lacks concision also lacks clarity; it is difficult for readers to keep track of your main idea when you write yourself in circles. That is why reading scientific articles in college gives people headaches- you have to read three pages to figure out what the author is trying to say, and even then you are not really sure what it is you are supposed to be paying attention to because there is so much extra information distracting you.
Second, your readers have short attention spans. It is pretty likely that they are already skimming your article as it is, so the more you can do to make sure every word servers a purpose the more likely they are to stay engaged to the end. Same goes for creative writing; nothing bores a reader more than long, wordy prose that does not actually tell them anything.
How Can Twitter Help Me?
Twitter is the wordy writers best friend, because it forces you to really think about how you are structuring your tweets, because you only get 140 characters to get your message across. This means you really have to hone in on what you want to say and figure out how to communicate it clearly in your allotted space. Choosing your words carefully is something you should always be doing, but Twitter forces you to do it. It forces you to consciously choose whats words to use and how to structure them. (Note: I initially wrote “it forces you to be conscious about how you choose….” see the difference?)
Am I saying that you should start trying to fit all of your sentences into 140 characters? Absolutely not. Anyone who has read anything I’ve written knows I am a fan of long, complex sentences; plus, like I said concise does not necessarily mean short. However, what I am saying is you can use this Twitter mindset to help you in all of your writing. Twitter gives you excellent practice restructuring your sentences to say the same thing in different ways, choosing the most precise words you can to get your meaning across.
What About Creative Writing?
Obviously the concept of using as few words as possible is more of a professional writing concept than a creative writing concept, but concision is still important, just in a different way. In creative writing you need to make an impression with every sentence in order to keep your readers’ attention, and while a lot of that has to do with the quality of your plot and characters, on the sentence level that means being very deliberate with your word choice. It means that no sentence is wasted, no word written without a purpose. This is easy to forget when you are 60,000 words deep in your manuscript, but on Twitter every tweet is a new story that requires careful crafting. Taking the time to think about what words you would choose to convey a scene if you knew you only had one sentence to convince your audience to keep reading will do wonders for your writing. And that is exactly what Twitter forces you to do.
Whether you are like me and never seem to log off Twitter or you make an account for the sole purpose of experimenting with your writing, or even if you just try to harness the Twitter mindset, I really believe it can help you improve your writing. I know it has helped improve mine. If you ever find yourself writing in circles, struggling to say what you’re trying to say, stop and think about what you would do if you had to fit the moment into a Tweet.
I hope this little writing trick proves to be as useful to you as it has been for me! I know there are tons of unconventional writing tips and tricks out there that people use, and I would love to hear yours if you have one you’d like to share! Also let me know if there is a particular writing question, issue, or trick you’d like me to address in this series!