As we continue to make tweaks to the Highrise marketing site, I wanted to share the writing process I went through last week.

The goal was to fit the same amount of information into roughly the same horizontal space, but one-third less vertical space without just shrinking and cramming everything together.

I didn’t want to shrink the icons or the font sizes. This meant the actual copy was on the chopping block. Almost every paragraph on every page on every piece of paper or every screen can be edited down without losing meaning. I love the challenge.

The process

The first thing I do when I want to cut out some words is not read the original version. I just write a new one. I don’t want to be influenced by what I thought I had to say before. I want to think about what I want to say now. After I’ve written a new one I go back to the old one to see if there was anything critical I missed.

Let’s start with the headline for the Highrise task/reminder feature. I wanted to make sure that the new headlines were action oriented. I didn’t want to say “This feature” I wanted to say “This benefit” or “This action.”

I usually start with a single headline and then riff from there. I started with:

Your follow-ups on time

This one wouldn’t fit without wrapping. I liked the message though. It wasn’t about “reminders” or “tasks” or anything feature-based. It was about follow-ups (which is a popular use for Highrise tasks).

I like follow-ups better than reminders because reminders aren’t quite focused enough. While Highrise tasks can be used for simple reminders, the word “follow-up” really gets to the point. And since Highrise is about contacts and leads, “follow-ups” is a better pitch here than “reminders.” You don’t “reminder” a contact, you follow-up with a contact. Further, inside Highrise we’ll sometimes say “Set a follow-up task” so it connects the dots.

Back to the words. Since “Your follow-ups on time” was too long, I started looking at the words to see which ones could be removed without losing meaning. “Your” is nice, but it’s non-essential. “Follow-ups on time” was OK, but it wasn’t focused enough. You don’t tell someone to “follow-ups on time” you tell them to “follow-up on time.” And there it was. Follow-up on time make sense and it fit. Headline done.

Next I worked on the copy below the headline. There was a couple things I wanted to get across here. 1. Highrise sends reminders about your follow-ups so you don’t have to worry about remembering them, and 2. Reminders are sent to your email or mobile phone so you’ll get them no matter where you are.

So before I wrote anything I thought about what I wanted to say in sentence form: “Highrise tasks send email or mobile phone reminders so you don’t forget to follow-up.” That was obviously too long, but it was the gist of it.

I typed it out in place on the Highrise site so I could see how much space it took up: “Highrise tasks send email or mobile phone reminders so you don’t forget to follow-up.” It took up about four lines. I only had room for two.

Ok, what can I start to remove? I don’t need to say “tasks” because it didn’t matter that they were “tasks” or “to-dos” or whatever. That was too much detail for now. I would have liked to say “mobile phone” but SMS was probably enough. But then I thought some people may not understand “SMS” so I added “SMS/text”. And then I thought about the “so you don’t forget” part and realized I didn’t need that either. It’s implied in the “Follow-up on time” headline. But I definitely wanted “reminders” in there because it helped “on-time” make sense.

Then I looked back at the original: “Highrise tasks send reminders via email or SMS/text to your mobile phone.” And the I read the new one: “Highrise sends reminders via email or SMS/text.” Combined with the new “Follow-up on time” headline, I’m communicating as much as the original but in far less space. It’s a bit more focused too. I’m happy with how this turned out.

And so on…

I went through this process with the remaining five icon/text groups, but I won’t bore you with another example. I hope the process above provides a peek into how I edit or rewrite to save space. Think about what you really need to say, write it in place, figure remove what’s non-essential, pare it down, make sure you’re getting to the point without using terms that require additional explanation, rewrite, compare with the original, see if you’re missing anything important, and wrap it up.