The big problem with the term “wordy” is that it means different things to different people… at different times.
Sometimes it means “having too many words.” Yet we’ve had clients say their page is “too wordy” when they have fewer than 200 words — far too few for good communication with search engines.
Making it shorter won’t fix that problem, and it will introduce new problems.
If you’re the one who thinks the site is too wordy, you can probably explain what you mean to your web professionals. If you’ve gotten that phrase as feedback and you’re passing it on, though, you may not be able to make it into useful information.
So let’s look further at what “too wordy” might mean.
Sometimes “too wordy” means “too dense.”
This site shows how very dense text can make a page look as though there are too many words, even if the number of words is not itself a problem. A little space and organization would make a big difference.
Sometimes “too wordy” means the vocabulary is wrong.
If your page has too much jargon, if the vocabulary is too formal, or if the words look too long for the paragraphs, the reader can feel overwhelmed by words. There may not be too many words, but the feel may be too heavy for the tone you want.
A less formal tone with more familiar words can fix this problem.
Sometimes “too wordy” means “too hard to read.”
In this “before” shot, light text on a dark background, poor typography choice, and narrow margins combine to make a page that looks like it’ll be hard work to slog through. Often, people don’t even have the vocabulary to think about this in a useful way. They’re not seeing typography, margins, color choices, or fonts, they’re seeing… words. And those words are so…wordy.
Sometimes “wordy” means “too little worthwhile content.”
To us, “wordy” means using too many words to say something. Wordy is when you say, “In today’s modern world, the demands of your lifestyle as a business owner trying to wear lots of hats and do more with less money and less time can make it hard to choose the right health insurance plan without the kind of expert advice a company like ours can provide” instead of “Our expert advice makes business insurance easy.”
I’m exaggerating here, just a little bit. But we were able to get a client’s 930 words down to 280 when they expressed concern that their draft was “too wordy.”
Sometimes there are words that don’t really have to be there. Saying “at this point in time” hardly ever makes sense. First off, it means “now,” which is much shorter. Second, it is now, isn’t it? Usually, you don’t have to specify that you’re saying something now. Look at your draft and see if there are some words that aren’t adding to the conversation.
Sometimes you can use one word in place of three — if it’s the right word. “Stagnant,” for example, means “not moving, when it should be moving.” If it’s taking you a long sentence to explain something, you may need to use more specific vocabulary.
For example, try not to say “wordy” when you mean “badly designed” or “badly written.” Save it (as our insurance company client did) for times when the content’s job could be done with fewer words.