Why Minimalism Matters

Minimalism matters. For the purposes of the points we want to make in this article, please note that we know that not all topics will be the same size, and that not all content can be reduced in the same way. We just want to point out a few basic ideas and are using a simple starting point to make our case.

In the case of the current document, the ideas are presented with a specific focus on cost savings in translation. However, don't discount the ideas of improving the message, reducing the print overhead, simplifying the user experience, and a world of other reasons to reduce what you write.

Cut the dead words

Good technical writing is precise and concise.

Use precise verbs

  • make a decision > decide
  • should create > create
  • perform a search > search

Avoid jargon

  • utilize > use
  • finalize > conclude or end

Get to the point

  • it has been designed to search > it searches
  • logs are recorded on an hourly basis > logs are recorded hourly
  • this section is a summary > this section summarizes

Eliminate needless repetition

  • adequate enough > adequate
  • advance planning > planning
  • appears to be > appears
  • basic essentials > basics, essentials
  • close proximity > proximity
  • consensus of opinion > consensus
  • cooperated together > cooperated
  • definite decision > decision
  • elongate in length > elongate
  • first priority > priority
  • future predictions > predictions
  • general rule > rule
  • increase in increments > increase
  • initial prototype > prototype
  • joint cooperation > cooperation
  • major breakthrough > breakthrough
  • modern science of today > modern science
  • most optimum > optimum
  • necessary requirement > requirement
  • outside periphery > periphery
  • rate of speed > speed
  • resemble in appearance > resemble
  • true facts > facts
  • twelve in number > twelve
  • usual rule > rule
  • very unique >unique

Eliminate the useless

  • a majority of > most
  • a sufficient amount of > enough
  • after the conclusion of > after
  • along the lines of > like
  • ascertain the location of > find
  • at such time as > when
  • at the present time > now
  • a type of program > a program
  • be deficient in > lack
  • be in a position to > can, be able to
  • by means of > by
  • come to a conclusion > conclude
  • despite the fact that > although
  • due to the fact that > because
  • during the time that > while
  • equally as well > as well, equally well
  • fewer in number > fewer
  • for the purpose of > to, for
  • for the reason that > because
  • for this reason > therefore
  • give indication of > show, indicate
  • happens to be> am, is, are
  • has a requirement > needs
  • has been proved to be > is
  • has the ability/capability > can
  • if conditions are such that > if
  • in a number of > several, many
  • in case > if
  • n all cases> always
  • in close proximity to > near
  • in excess of > more than
  • in many cases > often
  • in most cases > usually
  • in order that > so that
  • in order to > to
  • in some cases > sometimes
  • in the amount of > for
  • in the case of > for
  • in the event that > if
  • in this case > here
  • in view of the fact that > because, since
  • is an important factor > is important
  • is capable of > can
  • is found to be > is
  • is in a position to > can
  • it is possible that > perhaps
  • manner in which > how
  • on the basis of > from, because, by
  • on the order of > about, approximately
  • prior to > before
  • provided that > if
  • put an end to > end
  • reach a conclusion > conclude
  • since > because
  • subsequent to > after
  • the question as to > whether
  • there are three options that describe > three options describe
  • until such time as > until
  • with reference to > about
  • with the exception that > except tha

Content reduction

Consider two examples of the same type of content: One raw source file, and one where best practices have been applied. In the original topic sample (based on a topic provided by a real client) there is a lot of extra word use that can be eliminated with a clear and easy to read message as seen in the revised topic..

Original topic

Inserting a standard text phrase

Text Phrases > Insert standard places the predefined standard phrase as needed for this procedure into different sections of your document.

Note: You can only insert a standard text phrase if your report deals with a single procedure.

To insert a standard phrase do as follows:

  1. Click Text Phrases > Insert standard.
    1. The standard text phrase is inserted into the relevant document sections.

Revised topic

Insert standard text phrases

Predefined phrases can be inserted into relevant document sections.

Note: You can only insert a standard text phrase if your report deals with a single procedure.

  1. Click Text Phrases > Insert standard.

Financial impact

For the purposes of our example, consider ONLY the savings in translation costs. This does not include any personnel savings on time and effort used to produce, manage, edit, update, correct, review, publish, and otherwise manage content.

The original topic had a word count of 68 words over 6 paragraphs. The revised content has 37 words and only 4 paragraphs. The total reduction is about 45%.

The word count matters for translation. Assuming a cost of $0.50 per word (to make this simple) we would pay $34 to translate the first example, and only $18.50 for the second. The savings in cost (for this one simple topic example) is therefore around $15. If the translation is to 4 languages, then this topic is reduced in cost by a total of $60. If the translation is instead to 10 languages, then the savings would be $150.

Change summary

Title use:The original title contains a gerund and an article. The revised drops the article, and changes the noun to a plural. This helps remove possible issues with translation and simplifies the message

Inserting a standard text phrase

Insert standard text phrases

Short description:The short description in the original begins with the procedure being defined (Text Phrases > Insert standard) and it's wordy.

We also removed the very last paragraph in the original which (again) repeats a lot of ideas. Instead, we took the information that this task results in content being inserted in "relevant document sections" and moved it to the short description.

In essence, we combined two statements into one and simplified the message again.

Text Phrases > Insert standard places the predefined standard phrase as needed for this procedure into different sections of your document.

Note: You can only insert a standard text phrase if your report deals with a single procedure.

To insert a standard phrase do as follows:

  1. Click Text Phrases > Insert standard.
    1. The standard text phrase is inserted into the relevant document sections.

Predefined phrases can be inserted into relevant document sections..

Procedural lead-in sentence: We reduced content by removing a sentence that, basically, just repeated the title. By getting rid of the lead in sentence we simplify the message and bring the focus back to the key part of this task: The step.

Note: You can only insert a standard text phrase if your report deals with a single procedure.

To insert a standard phrase do as follows:

  1. Click Text Phrases > Insert standard.
    1. The standard text phrase is inserted into the relevant document sections.

Note: You can only insert a standard text phrase if your report deals with a single procedure.

  1. Click Text Phrases > Insert standard.

Step result use: We looked at the step result. By having clearly defined the task with a solid title, and a good short description to lead-in to the procedure, we can eliminate the step result. The user already knows that the result is the insertion of a standard text phrase in a relevant document.

Note: You can only insert a standard text phrase if your report deals with a single procedure.

To insert a standard phrase do as follows:

  1. Click Text Phrases > Insert standard.
    1. The standard text phrase is inserted into the relevant document sections.

Note: You can only insert a standard text phrase if your report deals with a single procedure.

  1. Click Text Phrases > Insert standard.

Expanded savings sample

Again, assuming all topics are about the same size as what we see here, and that we can gain similar savings, then a publication made up of 100 topics like these would contain an original amount of about 6,800 words. The revised version would be about 3,700 words.

Simply expanding the previous cost base by a factor of 100 and assuming a cost of $0.50 per word (to make this simple) we would pay $3400 to translate the first example, and only $1850 for the second. The savings in cost (for this one simple topic example) is therefore around $1500. If the translation is to 4 languages, then this topic is reduced in cost by a total of $6,000. If the translation is instead to 10 languages, then the savings would be $15,000.

We also regularly deal with clients who have topics numbering in the 10's of thousands. Imagine the total savings in translation costs when minimalist writing is applied to many topics which are translated into numerous languages.

Even with smaller saving (we estimated 45% on a single topic) of only 15% the savings are still noticeable.

Additionally, the reduction continues to clarify the message, and it reduces the total content that has to be managed, reviewed, edited, updated, and otherwise manually worked with over the lifespan of a product.