Writing exercise 1: How to write shorter and better

If you are a writer, or you consume lots of digital content, you probably know that the attention span of an average reader has been going down over the years.

In other words, the writer has fewer seconds in which to capture the attention of their readers.

So one particular writing skill has emerged as an extremely important one: writing short, engaging stuff.

The ability to write in a short, crisp, and an interesting manner.

Using less text to drive the point home.

Brief but engaging.

Here are 7 exercises you can use to make sure you express yourself in a short but compelling style.

1. Produce Infographics

Aim: Express your ideas in an infographic.

Steps:

  1. Identify your topic.
  2. Break it up in 5, 7 or 9 sub-points (Odd numbers are preferable).
  3. Think of these sub-points as titles. No sub-points should be longer than 4 words.
  4. Maintain consistency of expression in how you write these sub-points.
    • Example: Tip 1: Keep your lists short. Tip 2: Use the right font size. Tip 3: Make it fun to read. …. OR
    • Example: Tip 1: Short lists. Tip 2: Right fonts. Tip 3: Fun to read…
  5. For each sub-point, write a description that’s no longer than 8-10 words. Make sure the description is easy to understand and covers the most important idea of the sub-point.
  6. Revise and edit till you are satisfied.

Where: Canva is a wonderful tool that gives you a lot of “free”dom! Link

2. Create Videos

Aim: Produce videos that are no longer than 2 minutes.

Steps:

  1. Pick one single idea you want to communicate.
  2. Convert it into some form of a story.
  3. Write a rough script.
  4. Imagine what images would go best with the story.
  5. Find what images are available.
  6. Rewrite the script.
  7. Add voice-over, either through the tool’s bot or through you own voice. Expect about 20 to 30 words for ever 10 seconds of video.

Where: Lumen 5 is a great freemium tool. Link.

3. Write Microblogs

Aim: Create extremely short pieces of written content. AKA Tweets.

Steps:

  1. Sign up for a microblogging account if you don’t have one.
  2. Observe how and what people write about.
  3. Practice writing whatever you feel strongly about, always sticking to the character limit of the site.

Where: Twitter wins hands down. And the character-limit (280 characters per tweet) is a great idea.

4. Write short, creative posts

Aim: Create very short, but very creative posts. You don’t have to stick to Twitter.

Steps:

  1. Choose an idea that’s creative or abstract.
  2. Select a style you’ll follow in all your posts. For instance, you could choose a four-line limerick, a three-line email, an alteration of some famous movie dialogue.
  3. Experiment with what you can do best, but also challenge your limits.

Where: You can use this on most platforms. Even LinkedIn will work.

5. Craft a sales pitch

Aim: Create cold sales pitches. Sell yourself with the shortest possible messages.

Steps:

  1. Identify your best strength. Max two.
  2. Boil it/them down to two lines.
  3. Make a compelling cases of why you should be hired.
  4. Stick to what sounds like an unreasonable limit. Say, 500 characters.

Where: Use your email to send the pitch.

6. Add content to cartoons

Aim: Communicate your idea with cartoons.

Steps:

  1. Select a series of cartoon strips. You may also select single-frame cartoons, the kind of political cartoons you see in newspapers.
  2. Imagine there’s no text in the cartoon. What message can you write in that place?
  3. Weave a very, very short story that forms the backdrop of the cartoon. See if you can pack a punchline and a message in the same cartoon.
  4. Look hard at the image and see if your message is in sync with the style of the drawing. Repeat and improve.

Where: Select any newspaper. For example, if you are in India, you can choose from the cartoons drawn by R K Laxman, Shankar (K Shankar Pillai), Mario Miranda or Abu Abraham. Alternatively, you can buy a cartoon book like this or this. (Not affiliate links).

7. Post comments

Aim: Respond to posts by way of comments.

Steps:

  1. Regularly read posts of people inside and outside your network.
  2. Post comments. Be brief and appreciative without pandering the writer.
  3. Seek to add value, not just being nice.

Where: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are some good places to practice this.