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How to write less

By Jessica Albon

My new typewriter

I resolutely believe more writing makes you a better writer–it’s a skill that must be practiced if you intend to communicate clearly and well. And, heck, last year, I wrote a post on how to write 20,000 words in a weekend.

But, when it comes to an individual piece of writing, it’s important not to fall too madly in love with your words and be entirely unwilling to give any of them up–or you risk sacrificing clarity for your “flourish.”

About a month ago, I became obsessed with finding a very particular tool. I was convinced this new tool would help me cull my writing and write *less* so that I was communicating more. Several broken nails later… I can confirm that yes, my new tool indeed made a huge difference in the quality of what I was writing. I tried it out on a sales letter and what usually would have taken me at least 8 pages to explain was whittled down to three and a half.

What was this miraculous tool? A 1939 Royal Aristocrat. It’s just hard enough to type on that I have to really think through what I’m going to say before I type it. Usually, my method on the keyboard is to start a sentence and keep typing until I arrive at its end (or find myself on a detour I didn’t mean to go on–causing me to backspace my way out of trouble). With the typewriter, there is no backspace. And, sure, I can xxxx things out, but that makes the page messy. So, I have to think through entire sentences, entire paragraphs! before I start striking the keys.

The other advantage is that while I type a little over 100 wpm these days on a keyboard… I type about 20 wpm on the typewriter. Yipes! But, if I type any faster, I strike two keys at once, jamming the machine, and having to stop to fix things before continuing with my sentence. So I go slower. And while slow typing will not get you to a 20,000 words in a weekend goal, it will get you to a goal of richer, more meaningful language, more carefully crafted paragraphs, and… more broken nails.

(And for tips on how to embellish less in your writing without wrecking your manicure, check out this Copyblogger post: Does Your Writing Suffer from Purple Overload?)

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