Monday, May 20, 2013

Don’t pad your copy (4)

Don’t pad (unnecessarily expand) your copy, especially if you are writing educational or instructional copy. Padding makes your copy less readable, less clear, and less credible. It makes you less credible.

Example of padded copy

A Writer’s Digest blog post titled “Subverting Adverbs and Clichés” starts with these 192 words of padding:
Writers constantly have rules thrown at them left, right, and center. Show, don’t tell! Stop using so many dialogue tags! More sensory detail! More tension! Speed up the pace! Yada yada yada … it can become overwhelming, yes? I used to feel overwhelmed by it all too. In fact, I still do sometimes. It’s hard enough to get the words on the page, let alone consider how to put them there.

In Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, she says that in order to not be overwhelmed, a writer needs to focus on short assignments. She refers to the one-inch picture frame on her desk and how that little picture frame reminds her to focus on bite-sized pieces of the whole story. Basically, if you focus on one small thing at a time, the story will eventually come together to create a whole. I believe the same applies to learning the craft of writing. If aspiring writers focus on one aspect of the craft at a time, the process will seem less daunting.

Today I’d like to draw your attention to one of the most common criticisms aspiring writers face, to “absolutely avoid...
[192 words to here]

Those 192 words of padding do not contain a single mention of adverbs or clichés. The article is 916 words long, so the the author has wasted 21 percent (192/916) of his words boring and teasing the reader.

The Takeaway: Whenever you are writing straightforward copy, such as educational or instructional copy, avoid padding. Most readers will not finish reading what you wrote.

See disclaimer.

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