Skip to content
Advertisements

The virtue of brevity in writing

June 26, 2017

church sign

Photo: Au_tiger01 (CC)

Write tight.

It’s a skill that pays off repeatedly. And it wins audiences over for respecting their time and their attention span.

Journalists learn that skill through trial and error. Those on the print side write captions, headlines, briefs, teasers and other teeny morsels where a few words must convey as much as possible. Those on the broadcast side write scripts that must hit short time limits, plus chyrons (the onscreen labels) that appear for a few seconds.

Bloggers face no such restrictions. Armed with unlimited real estate, they ramble to their hearts’ content. Pity the poor reader who stumbles into a thicket of asides and unformed thoughts.

Brevity isn’t the happy accident of a taut first draft. It’s the rigorous application of a writer’s least favorite tasks: editing and revising. Editing asks what can go and what doesn’t belong in the first place. It also interrogates each sentence for meaning and clarity. Revising forces us to take what we think is a perfectly fine turn of phrase and try again (and harder, dammit).

It’s OK to be wordy in that first draft. Better to embrace flow than to stumble over starts and stops.

We see our writing, faults and all, more clearly through the process of editing and revising. We learn how to get to the point quicker. And that helps us in media new (memes, tweets, hashtags) and old (bumper stickers, billboards, commercials).

The old 5 B’s rule for speeches applies to writing: Be brief, brother, be brief.

Poynter: “How I stopped worrying and learned to murder my darlings”

• • •

Get help with your writing.
Contact me today for training and assessment …

Contact me

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: