Writing Lesson #47

Some people will never use one word when two words will do.

If composing a road sign they would write, “Bring your vehicle to a complete halt,” instead of “STOP.”

This is the sort of thing that makes editors and teachers want to beat somebody over the head with a copy of The Elements of Style. Strunk and White may be a small book, but that would still get you fired.

So, what do you tell the writer? How about this:

You are not getting paid by the word. Instead, imagine that I gave you $400 and for each word you use I will take back one dollar. You get to keep whatever you don’t spend. I bet that would convince you to cut out unnecessary words and phrases, wouldn’t it?

Remember: it’s your job to stomp out verbosity. And if my suggestion doesn’t work, let the beatings begin.

8 thoughts on “Writing Lesson #47

  1. There are very few writers who do not benefit from good editing. It’s too bad that some seem to get away without it.

    When there is no editor present, you often wind up with florid and extravagant prose that is way out of scale from its intended purpose. It becomes writing for the sake of writing, more masturbatory than effective.

    I can think of one or two Albany journos who fall into this category, who approach their stories like creative writing projects. They are viewed with such awe and adoration that no one will dare change their sacred screeds.

    When they publish a piece, their colleagues all stand up and cheer, “Bravo!” What they really need is to have their work looked at by someone with a tough eye but, alas, they have become too big to edit.

  2. Great post. My father always said “Don’t write me a long letter…take the time to write me a short one.”…. 😉

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