Here’s a writing tip that can save you an immense amount of time: You don’t have to provide every single detail about the subject matter you’re covering.
No, really. You don’t. You shouldn’t. And, in fact, you can’t.
Before you misread that, I’m not saying to withhold pertinent details. This isn’t a call to keep your readers in the dark. If anything, it’s a plea to make your articles, blog posts, or other professional publications worth their time.
Because they’ve only got so much of that precious commodity.
For that matter, they’ve only got so much of an attention span or tolerance to reading long-winded write-ups. So if you want to keep their focus from start to finish, you’ve got to make it worth their while.
And one great way to do that is to cut down on the unnecessary details.
According to a BBC article from 2017 – which interviewed psychologist Dr. Gemma Briggs – “the idea of an average attention span is pretty meaningless.
“It’s very much task-dependent,” she says. How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is. As such, the idea that the human attention span is down to mere seconds is ludicrous, in her opinion.
Like many well-respected U.S. and British publications, I’ve quoted that stat before: the one about how we get bored in no-time flat without new stimulation. But if it’s wrong (and the article is pretty convincing), then it’s wrong.
In my defense, I figured the stat simply meant we had to keep things interesting in order to maintain readers’ attention. We had to switch up our sentence structures and word choices, building off points and providing visually diverse stimulation – which is still true.
People are used to being entertained or at least engaged these days, even while they’re digesting information. So by meeting those expectations, we’re automatically coming out ahead.
That is something Dr. Briggs brings up as well:
We’ve got a wealth of information in our heads about what normally happens in given situations: what we can expect. And those expectations and our experience directly mould [British spelling, apparently] what we see and how we process information in any given time.
In which case, you need to ask yourself what your desired audience expects.
If your website or blog or publication’s audience expects a deep dive into every little detail… then deeply dive into as many little details, backstories, interpretations and minutia as you can.
But if your readers don’t care, then don’t.
For instance, more than likely, you don’t need to include every uniform variation when writing about a rag-tag rebel army. More than likely, you don’t need to include every potential risk, obscure or not, in a stock analysis.
And, more than likely, you don’t need to give every benefit of the doubt to an opposing argument. You only need to give the main ones: the most plausible or relevant ones.
Could you lose a few readers because you left out unnecessary details? Yes. However, you can gain many more by keeping things shorter, sweeter and to the point – since that’s what most readers of most publications expect.
I know there are always more details to be given about almost any subject. But even a full book can’t contain a complete discussion about most topics worth talking about.
There's always something more to say.
So stick with the important, honest information that you can. Then write it up into something worth reading, only leaving in the relevant details. Whatever those details may be.