Prune your clauses

Once I’ve established a tone and voice for a client in new marketing materials and collateral, it’s time to bring existing documents in line with the new writing style. So I’m often asked to rewrite documents drafted in English by non-English speakers, mainly French ones.

It’s easy to spot copy that’s been written in English, but conceived in French. You can tell by the length of the sentences. The fact that on a French keyboard you have to use the shift key to put a period at the end of a sentence (while commas, semi colons and colons are all lower case) is telling.

So when a client asks me how to  write more concisely in English, the first thing I tell them is shorten clauses to phrases and phrases to single words. Here are some examples:

BEFORE: Company X, which was founded in 1995, is a leader in the field of mobile technology.
AFTER: Founded in 1995, Company X is a leader in mobile technology.

BEFORE: The function of the technology X is to improve the speed of production.
AFTER: Technology X improves production speed.

My second tip is avoid expletives, and I don’t mean swear words. I run into these a lot because they are commonly used in French ( C’est ,il y a). Avoid using them in English. They rob a sentence of its impact:

BEFORE: There are 40 employees in the company.
AFTER: The company has 40 employees.

BEFORE: It is the function of the tool to detect errors .
AFTER: The tool detects errors.

There are many other ways to write lean copy in English. More to come in the future.


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