If you’re used to writing longer pieces, making the switch to a much more constrained form can be a real challenge. When I first started writing 250 word articles, I had no idea what I was doing. It would actually take me longer to write the short pieces because I spent so much time culling back content to meet the mandated word count. Truth is, I still find it tricky at times but the following tips help keep me in line.
Hit up your local library and spend some time going through various magazines and newspapers. Look out for short articles—in magazines they’re usually closer to the front sandwiched between those endless ads—and read a bunch of them to get familiar with how ideas (or an idea) is approached, in both content and form. Take notes, draw pictures or snap shots (discretely?) on your preferred device. Doing this will give you a strong feel for the short article and what it can and can’t accomplish.
Go in with a plan
When it’s time to write your article, make an outline of what you want to cover. Try to figure out upfront how much you can reasonably fit within the allotted word count. If you want to provide more in depth reporting, you may have to choose just one small aspect of your original topic. Alternatively, you could skim the surface of your broader subject and not go into as much detail. Either way, making these kind of choices upfront can steer you away from potential overflow as you write out your first draft.
Get to the point
Those cute turns of phrases and long ambling introductions have got to go. You won’t have room for them. More importantly, in order to give your reader the meatiest bits, you’ll need to make sure you don’t mince words. The introduction will likely be only one or two sentences and to wrap-up the article, a one-sentence conclusion is best.
Use bullets to convey more with less
There’s absolutely no shame in using bulleted lists to share information succinctly. Bulleted lists are:
- Easy to scan
- Visually interesting
- High density
Use them anytime you want to pack in a lot of high-value content that’s easy for readers to digest.
Cut out the fat
If you’re anything like me, despite your best intentions, your first draft will creep past the 250-word mark. Maybe a lot past. There’s only one solution: go in like a butcher and get rid of the fat. Some of those tasty nuggets that are packed with flavour may need to be lopped off. Anything that veers too far from your main point will definitely need to go. And your sentences must be scrutinized for and freed of all unnecessary bits of language.
But keep it readable
What you should be left with is a highly compact article that’s interesting on its own, but may also be part of a much bigger story. Keep your readers in mind as you revise to ensure you don’t leave any gaping holes in the piece and that your sentences are coherently stitched together. And keep your language interesting. Even writing that’s low in fat should still have some spice.