If you’ve been with me for a while then you know the emphasis I place on the art of writing concise copy. In that particular post I taught you how to edit an article for brevity. In other words, I made the practice part of the workflow.
Now, I want you to step off the playing field and onto the practice field. We know the secret to going from good to great involves feedback … but it also involves deliberate, purposeful practice.
That’s what these six exercises are all about. Deliberate, purposeful practice.
1. Describe a broad or complicated subject in 100 words or less.
Think quantum mechanics. History of Western civilization. Choose a subject you love. One you know well. Could be a current event with lots of twists and turns. If you are at a loss for topics, search the front page of Wikipedia.
Once you’ve described the subject in 100 words or less, shoot for 50 words. Then 10 words. Find a new topic, and repeat.
2. Write a 100-word article using ONLY monosyllabic words.
You know … monosyllabic … words created out of just one syllable. Like bone, two, fierce, lie, spade, blow, hill, brain, dark.
Think this will be easy? It won’t. I have to use twelve words (and one polysyllable word) to describe table (two syllables): “Flat surface with four legs made out of wood, metal, or glass.” Can you describe it with fewer than thirteen? You’ll probably need a thesaurus for this one.
3. Write a 100-word article ONLY using active verbs.
Subject does the action is always faster and more descriptive than an object having something done to it. “Dorothy yelled at the waiter.” “The rhino gored the pumpkin.” “The twister devastated Joplin.”
4. Write a 100-word article ONLY using simple sentences.
Take the same exercise in number one, but try to limit your sentences to no more than four words. Short and snappy will be the sound you hear when you read aloud the article.
5. Describe a topic in a sonnet.
This is a variation on number one where you try to explain a complex or broad subject within the framework of a sonnet. You don’t have to rhyme or get the perfect iambic pentameter for each line, just get your story into fourteen sentences of ten syllables each. This will teach you how to write in boundaries as well as teach you a little about poetry and help you pick up a style.
6. Describe a topic or idea using the PAS formula.
The PAS formula stands for Pain-Agitate-Solve … and the idea is to limit your idea to only two sentences per element so it looks like this:
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There was a period in my career when I had to write hundreds of succinct product descriptions. Without this formula I would’ve struggled.
Consider tackling just one exercise a day. And when you are finished, feel free to share you exercises in the comments below. I’d be happy to comment on them.
Image source: Cocoterie