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What can social media teach us about writing?
I'm really excited to be doing this guest blog so I can share my thoughts on what social media can teach us about writing. There are many writing snobs out there who cringe at the thought of the 140 character update on twitter. And yes some are in indecipherable text speak. But actually I have learned an awful lot about superfluous words from twitter. You know, you write a tweet and it's a tad too long and then you have to edit. In my experience there is nearly always a word you can take out and still be saying the same thing. Social media is also a great place to get content for your feed, or ideas for a blog post. You can also start conversations with people you don't know how to talk to in "real life".
The editing down of tweets has been such a useful exercise for me. In my previous career as a solicitor, I'll be honest, I tended towards being a bit wordy. I'm not sure why lawyers feel the need to use 15 words when 5 would do. You throw in an "indeed" here and an "obviously" there. I suspect it dates back to being paid by the word. Or it's hiding a lack of self-confidence (which may surprise you!). But when I started up as a freelance blogger I really had to wrestle with the desire to put in more words, not take some out.
Don't get me wrong, I am not in any way trying to argue that you only ever want to read short blogs. I have read some great articles online that have taken up a number of screens. And let's never forget that beautiful world of books packed with perfect lines of prose. Each has their place in the world. But in terms of getting your message across on the internet, your message needs to be short, snappy and eye grabbing and if you waffle on you will lose people's attention. Readers online have a much shorter attention span than people in a library or a book shop. People want to find what they're looking for, connect with it and move forward. That's the instant world we live in now.
So the next time you have to painstakingly edit a tweet, look at what words you're cutting out. Can you say the same thing and still lose a word? Or re-frame the sentence and see if you can use less words? No, it's not going to be a novel but you may just find that your tweet or your blog gets more attention and isn't that the point of it?
Wonderful Louisa, encouraging post. Best of luck with your writing, and thanks for guest blogging for me today.
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