Less Is More
Writing styles tend to be very personal; like fingerprints, no two are exactly the same. Tomes have been compiled about the finer details and nuances of various writing styles. For me the concept that best sums up my own style is: “less is more”.
There was an old university freshman exercise where the professor assigned a ten page essay on a particular topic that was due on a specified date. When the students arrived that day and handed in their essays (this was long before email), thereby meeting the deadline requirement, the professor would return them to the students without even looking at them. Instructions were then given to the students to take home their papers and bring them back in one week, reduced by four pages in length but still covering the topic.
Imagine if Moses had met a Public Relations or Advertising professional on the way down Mount Sinai. Each commandment would have had its own PowerPoint slide …
Some students were stunned, they couldn’t imagine how they could possibly edit out that much of their work and still do justice to the assignment. But they usually achieved it.
While I never experienced this exercise myself, I think I would have done well at it. I was one of those students who, upon being told the length of a term paper or assignment, inevitably thought, how will I ever fill that many pages?
When I wrote university papers I always had to struggle to get to the minimum required number of words. I would write on lined loose leaf paper – before begging a family member to type the final document – and I kept a running tally of the word count in the margin. And believe me I counted every single word, including and, if, the, or, but. They are all words, so they were all included.
I also like to read novelists who cut to the chase, Ernest Hemingway and Georges Simenon being among my favorites. If the sky is blue, just say so. No need to go into the precise shade of robin’s egg blue that evokes childhood memories of the character’s aunt’s tea set. And there might be a few clouds. Done. No need to ramble on about just how fluffy and white they were, like the underbelly of an Alaskan sled dog on a cold … blah, blah, blah.
The body of the Declaration of Independence has a total of 1337 words. One page composed of a mere thirteen-hundred words that has been revered for over two-hundred years.
That’s the way I like to write; get to the point and get out. I consider blogging something akin to the old page three column in many newspapers. A few hundred words on a varying wide range of subjects. A little bit of something for everyone.
Consider the Ten Commandments; ten points on two tablets. Five bullets per tablet. Imagine if Moses had met a Public Relations or Advertising professional on the way down Mount Sinai. Each commandment would have had its own PowerPoint slide with four or five subsequent slides to illustrate the evils. Graphs,charts, a bit of multi-media, color handouts and of course an inflated invoice would all have been part of scripture. And in the end, amid all the window dressing: Ten Commandments.
Ten Commandments PowerPoint table of Contents
The body of the Declaration of Independence (i.e. without signatures and states) has a total of 1337 words. One page composed of a mere thirteen-hundred words that has been revered for over two-hundred years. Can you imagine what the same sort of document would entail today? Countless briefs, presentations and opinions all appended and noted.
When it comes to making a point, which is why we write, I’m all in favour of getting right down to business.