“25 words or less”

Thank you for visiting my business writing blog. The original headline for this post was ‘How many is enough; how many too much?’. It’s the first of what will probably be several posts on the subject of length of text … and the difference between ‘short’ and ‘succinct’. I hope you find it entertaining and instructive.

Yesterday I broke my long-standing rule against clicking on Facebook ads. Fujifilm sucked me in with a competition. They’re giving away cameras, so I couldn’t resist.

Better yet, it’s a photo caption competition. So they had me by the … well, they had me.

They even offered a panel of ‘Helpful Hints’. Listen to this:

Use your imagination — Make your response interesting and creative — include humour, emotion or tell a story.

 Keep it clean — Whilst we appreciate your enthusiasm, let’s leave anything horribly inappropriate at home.

 Can I have a hint? — Each question comes with a handy hint to help you beat that dreaded writer’s block.

Have you ever seen such great writing advice for a ’25-words-or-less’ promotion? It’s not bad advice for business writing in general. Except, perhaps, for ‘humour’; it is not always wise to be witty in business writing. But the one that really caught my eye was this:

A picture is worth a thousand words — Try to use the word limit to its full potential by avoiding short or succinct answers.

If you’ve read my book or some of my blog posts, you know that I’m a fierce advocate of succinct writing. So you might expect me to snarl at Fujifilm’s exhorting their entrants to verbosity.

But I agree with them, because succinct is not the same as short. In fact, ’25 words or less’ is a good exercise for writers. Here’s how to do it:

1. Quickly write a story of about 50 words.

2. Edit it down to 25 words.

If you can do this while retaining the most important parts of the original story, the 25-word version is succinct. If not, it is merely short.  (26 words)

          (EDIT #1)
If your 25-word edit has the most important parts of the original story, it’s succinct. If not, it’s just short.
          (20 words = 23% reduction)
           (EDIT #2)
A 25-word edit that keeps the important parts of the original is succinct, not merely short.
          (16 words = 38.5% reduction)
          (EDIT #3)
A 25-word edit that tells a 50-word story is not short; it’s succinct. 
          (13 words = 50% reduction)

To see a very clever and well-written Facebook promotion, go here —


Thank you for visiting my blog. You can buy my book, Write Like You Mean Business, here — http://thecopymentor.com/index.php/shop


About Copymentor

Australian and US copywriter, creative director and author
This entry was posted in Business, Digital Photography, Editing, English and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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