Thursday, February 05, 2009

Brevity Is Indeed The Soul Of Wit

I guess I could have retitled this post, "A Lesson Will Shannon Should Have Learned Long Ago."

Oh well, it might be too late for me...

Anyway, for any of you who have done any amount of writing, there is one piece of (seemingly)counterintuitive thinking that is absolutely spot-on.

This idea is the notion that it is harder to write a short piece than it is to write a long one.

It is much, much harder to write a short, well-argued piece of writing than it is to do the same in multiple times the space. Think you would have a tough time explaining something in fifty pages? Try doing it effectively in three. Hell, try doing it on one side of an index card.

I am reminded of this whenever the semester begins and my supervising professor and I try and impress this idea on a new group of students.

Let me tell you from experience: they never believe you. They also often never believe how low a grade they got.

So, whenever I run across a well-argued, clear, convincing, provocative, tight and compelling piece of writing, I think it is simply a joy to read.

I figured I would share two of my favorite examples of this with you:

Anyone who writes or reads should appreciate the ability to express oneself in an engaging, succinct manner.

I aspire to this. This website shows that, on this score, I win some and I lose some.

Just how many W's and L's I have is really up to you.

I am a little bit afraid of what you think about this, but if you want, tell me anyway.

I can occasionally accept limited amounts of constructive criticism.

1 comment:

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

"Anyone who writes or reads should appreciate the ability to express oneself in an engaging, succinct manner."

This is very, very true. I'm reading a book right now wherein the author discusses some of the bad habits of superfluous words used in writing. We really don't need three adverbs to describe the scene. Succinctness is a much more powerful and fluent way of writing.