I joined Twitter in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I started noticing a lot of quality jokes on the site. I found that there was a whole Joke Twitter community where people would draft jokes with each other in an attempt to hone their comedy writing skills. Some are professional standup comedians and TV writers, while others just write jokes for the fun of it.


I became a part of this community and managed to write a few popular jokes of my own (a few of which gained over 40k likes). This experience has taught me a lot about not just humor writing, but writing in general. Due to its 280-character word limit, Twitter is a place where you can learn how to be concise. You end up thinking a lot about your phrasing, and how many words you really need to make your point.


Many of the Twitter skills I learned have translated to my fiction writing. The ability to be succinct is a fantastic tool in any type of writing—it makes your words flow better in a more readable way. Here are some of the types of language to look out for in your quest for conciseness.



Redundant Language


One of the most common conciseness issues writers run into is redundant language. This refers to using the same word or phrase multiple times in close proximity to one another. Many of my Twitter friends are sticklers for this type of thing, down to using multiple question marks in the same joke.


You don’t need to nitpick so much when it comes to fiction writing (though exclamation points, like a strong spice, should be used sparingly). You should just try to notice when you repeat words. Here’s an example:


George has three cats named Penny, Bugsy, and Elvis. He also has two dogs named Spot and Rover. He also has a bird named Kiwi.


The use of the phrase “also has” lowers the quality of the writing here. There’s an easy fix for this:


George has three cats named Penny, Bugsy, and Elvis. He also has two dogs named Spot and Rover. He has a bird named Kiwi as well.


The word “also” is one you’ll likely begin to spot a lot in your writing. Another common one is “just”—we all end up using that one too much. Luckily, “just” can often be cut entirely. In more complex cases—like using the word “beautiful” too much—you can always whip out your trusty thesaurus.


Of course, there are times when repetitive phrasing is unavoidable—sometimes it’s simply essential to communicate your meaning clearly. But you’ll be surprised how much cutting some redundant words and phrases will improve the flow of your writing.





In On Writing, Stephen King states, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” He goes on to point out how unnecessary adverbs are when they could just be replaced with stronger verbs instead.


This is a very useful piece of advice when it comes to being concise. Which one of the below sentences packs a harder punch?


“How could you do this?” he asked angrily.




“How could you do this?” he snapped.


The first sentence seems weak and needlessly verbose once you read the second one. A lot of writing is simply overflowing with “-lys” when another more succinct word or phrase would have done the job a lot better.


I am not as dramatic as Stephen King with adverbs. In fact, I believe that adverbs can often add another layer of detail that helps to enrich a scene. But if you’re looking to make your writing sharper and more to the point, it would be a good idea to think deeply about each and every adverb you use, and question whether or not it really needs to be there.





This is an issue I’ve run into a lot in my work as a freelance editor. Many writers, especially the newer ones, tend to feel the need to refer to their characters by name each and every time they’re mentioned. Here’s what I mean:


Janice waved at Bradley. “Hey! How are you doing?”


Bradley sat beside Janice. “I’m doing okay. How are you?”


“Good,” Janice replied.


“Great weather we’re having,” Bradley commented.


“It really is,” Janice agreed.


It is extremely unnecessary to refer to characters by name over and over in this way. Once you mention their names once, and if they’re the only people in the conversation, readers tend to get the point. So let’s try that:


Janice waved at Bradley. “Hey! How are you doing?”


Bradley sat beside her. “I’m doing okay. How are you?”


“Good,” she replied.


“Great weather we’re having,” he commented.


“It really is,” she agreed.


This is much better, but the dialogue could actually be even more concise. There are several moments in this exchange where the characters don’t need to be referred to at all:


Janice waved at Bradley. “Hey! How are you doing?”


Bradley sat beside her. “I’m doing okay. How are you?”




“Great weather we’re having.”


“It really is.”


Once again, if there are only two speakers in a conversation, readers are going to catch onto who’s speaking without being constantly reminded. Deleting unnecessary names and ascriptions will go a long way toward improving your dialogue.


None of these are hard and fast rules—I certainly break them all the time. Instead, you should simply think of them as guidelines that could help you along your way toward becoming a more concise writer.