How to shorten copy, but retain the meaning

Don’t worry, content that is too long can be shortened, without destroying what it says. Here’s our guide to cutting an article, without losing its meaning.

Delete asides and jokes. They may help set the tone and provide some levity, but too many asides and jokes can destroy copy. (Asides often appear inside brackets and are easy to spot. See?) Jokes, on the other hand, should just make you laugh. If they don’t, they are obvious candidates for the chop.

Use bullet points. Rather than retaining long-winded paragraphs of well-formed sentences, replace with bullet points. These are particularly useful when the writer simply presents a lot of evidence or material that supports a more fundamental point.

Edit out examples and lists. On the subject of evidence, writers can sometimes present too much of it. If you are short of space and the writer is giving six examples of wealth management companies, perhaps one or two would do. If you find that you need to cut a lot of statistics, perhaps you could retain them for a later article or present them in an accompanying info graphic.

Combine your intro paragraph and standfirst. By writing very clear headlines and standfirsts, you’ll be able to save room by not having to write an introduction that does this work too. This trick works for online as much as print.

Take out ‘that’. It might be taking a bit of a liberty with the grammar police, but snip ‘that’ from your text – often you don’t really need it. For instance: ‘George Osbourne says that the economy is expanding’ is imperceptibly different from ‘George Osbourne says the economy is expanding’.

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