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How to cut copy

Copy often needs to be cut due to formats, ugly line-breaks, stingy social media constraints or to appeal to a world that simply doesn’t like reading. Of course, you can remove content, but once your copy's squeezed tight, getting it even leaner can seem impossible. The good news is, there are always characters to cull. You just have to find them. Here are four super-nerdy tips.

1. Combine words with an apostrophe — “There is” or “does not” can be “There’s” and “doesn’t”. You only lose a character and a space, but a) that might be all you need and b) over a page or document it adds up. (This technique is less formal, so if you’re writing an official document, or want a more formal tone, then best to keep words apart).

2. Look for words you can abbreviate — For example, “Approximately” could be “Approx.” or “Copenhagen” could be “CPH”. And, of course, “for example” could be “e.g.” (Again, these shorter versions are a little less formal, so look at context).

3. Find shorter synonyms (but keep the original meaning) — For example, “The pie was absolutely delicious” (32 characters with spaces) could be “The pie was really tasty” (24 characters with spaces). But, “The pie was super nice” (22 characters with spaces) while shorter, could be too casual in tone. You be the judge. It's about stripping down the length until you feel the meaning or tone change. "The pie was nice" is a full 50% shorter, but seems to have lost some of its enthusiasm. If I'd spent all day baking, I'd prefer 100% praise!

4. Rephrase statements — “The dog of the man” (18 characters with spaces) can be “The man’s dog” (13 characters with spaces). “Don’t lose” (10 characters with spaces) could be “keep” (4 characters). Or “Make text shorter” (17 characters with spaces) does exactly that as “Shorten text” (12 characters with spaces).

Bonus tip — Seems obvious, but if you're doing a layout you can always look for solutions with your Art Director or designer. Usually, you can safely kern fonts to -5 or further without decreasing legibility. You could try using only lower-case letters (if the context allows), replace "and" with "&" or even try a font specifically designed to save space (and ink) such as Gerard Unger's Gulliver. Getting copy to fit layouts is about good teamwork. Good luck!

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McNally Unlimited © 2019

McNally Unlimited © 2019