What is Tight Writing?


As a freelance writer, you'll often need to compress a lot of information into a few words - especially when you're writing press releases or web content

People reading the news (press releases) or those surfing the 'net have short attention spans - and you're responsible for getting them to read.

Creative writers, novelists and others have the freedom to paint a picture with their words because their readers want to immerse themselves alongside the characters.

Web content readers, though, want to grab the information and move on to something else.

That's why you have to write tight, information-jammed sentences when you're composing web content.

What is Tight Writing?

Not tight writing:

The beautifully-landscaped lawn was overflowing with bright pink pansies, lush Kentucky bluegrass and a softly-gurgling, man-made river and pond.

Tight writing:

The lawn was well-landscaped.

Not tight writing:

Visitors have the chance to experience gorgeous sights, including beautifully flowing waterfalls, large and small rolling hills, lush flower gardens that smell like spring all year long and gorgeous butterflies that may or may not land on your hand in the butterfly area.

Tight writing:

Visitors may experience our:

  • flowing waterfalls
  • rolling hills
  • flower gardens
  • butterfly area

Not Tight Writing:

While cereal bars are deliciously tasty for humans, it's probably not a very good idea to feed them to your dog because they can cause gassiness, vomiting and other types of gastrointestinal distress.  If you choose to feed your dog cereal bars, be prepared to deal with whatever problems may arise and cordon off an area in your backyard for your dog to handle his illness.

Tight writing:

Cereal bars should not be fed to dogs.  Doing so may cause gastrointestinal distress.

Why do you need to know?

You need to know what tight writing is because your career as a freelance writer probably depends on it.  Like I said, novelists and other writers have the freedom to make their words fluffy - but when you're writing for the Web, for newspapers and for magazines, you need to cut to the chase.

What if a web content client is hung up on words?

Yep, you'll probably run into this at some point (or several points) in your freelance writing career.  I always let my clients know that Web readers are tired of reading once they hit around 400 words - because they are.

However, sometimes you'll get a web content client that says, "But 500 words is not enough to say what I want to say."  Ok then, create another page.  You can generally describe a topic in less than 500 words - in a way that leaves the reader wanting more - and if the reader wants to learn more, have separate pages to describe individual services or products.

If you are trying to pack so much information into 500 words that the reader will be pulled in a zillion different directions, you've got the wrong answer.  Use links to other pages where they can go to find more specific information.

Sometimes they'll listen, sometimes they won't - either way, it's your job to tell them what works best; if they don't agree, well, the customer is always right.

What do you consider tight writing?  How did you learn to trim the fat from your documents?


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© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on FreeFreelanceWritingTips.Blogspot.com, it's stolen.

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Freelance Writing Tips by Angie Papple Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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