Write Tight, Write for a Tweet

Good writers are disciplined editors of their own work. They only write as much as their audience can absorb. They write like they were tweeting.Do your readers a favor and write tight. While you're at it, include a quotable phrase or two that readers will remember and you can use on Twitter to promote what you wrote.

Roy Peter Clark, author of "How to Write Short; Word Craft for Fast Times," says he now edits essays, opinion pieces, anything to make sure there are memorable lines. He says that's what will stick in people's minds and what can be shared, tweeted and retweeted.

In his review of Clark's book, Washington Post Outlook Editor Carlos Lozada says "the veteran writing guru not only praises Twitter's 140-character limit as a tool for 'intelligent cutting,' but dismantles the staid lament that writing in the Twitter era has grown shallow, fleeting, anti-literary."

Even though Clark is "old school," Lozada says he has embraced digital media as a platform for short, potent writing. "We need more good, short writing," Clark insists, "the kind that makes us stop, read and think in an accelerating world."

For the public affairs professional who addresses often hostile audiences, this is excellent advice. Whether or not you are active on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you need to write like you are. The time for dry, drawn out prose has gone, unless you are taking a college English class studying the collected works of John Milton.

One of the best ways to sharpen your writing is to delete unnecessary words. As an illustration, Clark takes a 65-word, 386-character paragraph from William Strunk, author of the seminal "The Elements of Style," and reduces it to 27 words and 137 characters. Some meaning may be lost, Clark admits, but you get the point — even a careful stylist such as Strunk can be edited to make a sentence simpler and have more impact.

"A good short writer must be a disciplined cutter," says Clark. You may want to say more. You may need to say more. But you only can write what your audience will absorb. That's the power of short, tight writing. Pack in the meaning as if you were tweeting.

If your audience wants more, write another tweet.