Tighten Up Your Writing #1

This post is approximately 400 words. Originally published by Michael on LinkedIn.

marktwainThere’s a saying attributed to Mark Twain that goes something like this: “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.”

The original quote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” is attributed to Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and philosopher.

I like the Twain version better, though perhaps something is lost in the Pascal translation. But the spirit of the message is clear: writing concisely takes time. Today, most of us can pound away at the keyboard at lightning speed, conjuring sentences from seemingly randomly-placed keys. The imperfect text results from something being lost in translation between head and hand.

And that’s OK. Compare that sentence to what I originally wrote:

  • FROM: The result is often less perfect than it sounded in our brain because something has been lost in translation between head and hand
  • TO: The imperfect text results from something being lost in translation between head and hand

I’m not in love with the rewrite, but I’m not targeting perfection for this post. Now review another sentence I just revised (I’m eliminating the FROM/TO labels to better illustrate sentence length).

  • Take a look at how that last sentence was originally written.
  • Compare that sentence to what I originally wrote.

I eliminated several words in my rewrites and I believe the new sentences flow better.

  • Not only are my rewrites shorter, but I eliminated several unnecessary words.
  • I eliminated several words in my rewrites.

writing 2

Here are other examples and possible rewrites:

  • Today may be the day I pursue the creation
  • Today may be the day I create
  • A company with an interest in this subject
  • A company interested in this subject
  • As a way for the customer to explore expansion in this area
  • The customer can explore expansion in this area

Some words were simply unnecessary; some made the sentence drag; and some were too passive. With practice, these things can easily be culled from your sentences. I’m at the point where I often catch these things as I type. But I’m still finding them in my writing.

And that’s OK.

  • Over time, these types of things are easier to identify and can be culled from your sentences.
  • With practice, these things can easily be culled from your sentences.

Yep, still happening.

120ae1f

–Michael

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One thought on “Tighten Up Your Writing #1

  1. Pingback: Tighten up your writing #2 – The Lost Royals

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