Today’s prompt – “Concise Writing”
I have a friend – Chris. He has a very busy job, ten people working for him. He’s “told me off” a couple of times for writing emails to him that are “too long”.
Over time I’ve learnt to be more concise in what I send to him. It’s something I wanted to learn anyway, so not much resistance on my side of things to being “told off” – it’s constructive criticism, I get that. I already blogged about the importance of being able to rewrite things in one’s own words in one of my SEO posts – “Always Be Paraphrasing”
I already blogged about us getting bombarded with information the whole time, and how I felt we all needed more “Me time”. So conciseness could easily be a nice courtesy for others who are busy (or perhaps one you’d like others to afford to you ?)
My own conciseness toolkit is a gradual evolution over time in my writing, reading, refining. One thing I’ve found I do personally is add filler words like “and”, “because”, “so” etc at the beginning of sentences. Often not needed in my writing or speaking.
How I work now, is to reread and just start REMOVING what I think is necessary. Often even whole sentences. Sometimes I rewrite a sentence for clarity, usually I’m taking words out.
I’m sure there are books that define the logic and grammar of the language and explain logically how to be more concise. Personally I usually take the “learn it through my own experience route”. This route means having a go and doing it one’s self.
Now I’m not saying that we always want to be concise. A Harry Potter book for instance – the whole plot could be defined on a couple of pages. But that’s not a story. So certain types of writing require wordiness in order to convey emotions and a story, amongst other things.
Conciseness is a tool like any other. Learn where to use it and where not. A busy friend who works 18 hours a day – conciseness. A day spent with a friend you haven’t seen for a year – wordy, if you want to share all that’s been happening in the past year.
So awareness of who you’re speaking to and some empathy towards them and what’s going on in their life, should guide you to a certain extent in concise vs wordy. Also the context of the writing or communication. A business letter is a very different thing from a love letter !
Don’t Be Bossy, Use Conciseness Effectively
Leaders also often need to be concise, get their point across quickly and simply, so consider this a part of learning leadership skills, communication skills or social skills. Forget “being bossy”, being bossy is just plain being bossy. Way I think – Ask me or f*** off really, bottom line. Good leaders learn to communicate effectively, bad leaders are, well, as already said just bossy. Concise is not the same as bossy 🙂
Often more direct can be more concise, but consider the “bossy” rule above. Also consider the opposite – being more indirect where it’s more concise and communicates something more smoothly.
Prioritise your ideas, the most important ones keep, then gradually weed out in descending order of significance. Clarify, clarify, clarify in your own mind, and in the words you write, the clearer and simpler the better – KISS – “Keep It Simple Stupid”. If someone tells you a quicker or better way of saying same thing, then use that instead.
More advanced even is the refinement of one’s own stock of analogies, similes and metaphors so almost anything can be communicated quickly with cliche’esk brilliance, to a varied audience. A master of conciseness, a teacher of teachers, in the making – YOU !
The Negatives In Being Overly Wordy
It’s a misnomer that dominating the aural air-space puts you in control or makes you dominant. Leaders and other dominant/in control people in my experience tend to talk less, and say a lot more when they do speak, often concisely and well thought through. So being overly wordy can sub-communicate low status or someone who perceives them self as low status. With the caveat that leaders tend to adjust their own status to suit the given situation. Low status isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depends on the situation – could be a sign of humility in place of arrogance.
It’s also well documented that “talking too much” is a fear coping mechanism. Most of us have been bugged by these people who rattle off reams bullshit in order to try to mesmerise us. Does it work ? Not often. Come across as “needy”, “timewasting” and “unsure of them self” – Quite possibly. JUST SOMETHING TO PAY ATTENTION TO, AND NOT TO DEVELOP A COMPLEX OVER !
Be precise and concise … I’m a poet and I didn’t know it !
DO – Write an article entitled “My Day” – about what happened in your day yesterday (or whichever day you want to write about). The article should just be written as the thoughts come to you, quickly, no editing. Just keep on writing and writing. If you get stuck, pause, take a break then come back and write some more. The aim is to get as many words as possible down. Use the first thing that comes into your head, that is best. Keep it under 2000 words – an epic saga in 65 volumes is not needed. Conciseness – see already you learnt something !
DO 2 – Imagine you’re meeting up with a close friend, but you only have half an hour with them. With your above created masterpiece you need to make it more concise, but communicate the same things in 1/4 of the words. So 2000 words becomes 500 words. 40 sentences becomes 10. 4 pages becomes 1. You get the idea, no need to be exact, just guess on words, sentences, pages, trust yourself.
DO 3 – Now I want you to imagine you’re about to see an old friend. You want to tell him/her about your day. You only have 60 seconds to do so ( because they get called away on urgent business ). So for this phase condense what you’ve already condensed into what you could read/say out loud in 60 seconds (slowly as to be comprehensible for the other). Cheating doesn’t help to learn anything from the exercise, so actually do do it !
DO 4 – Condense yet further for a twitter tweet – 140 characters I think.
DO 5 – Now look back on what you’ve written, can you see “the how” in what you’ve done ? For me this is the most important, seeing how you did it – it may help you next time. Internalise and use next time automagically. Job done.
IF YOU FEEL YOU WANT TO – THEN DO DO, BUT ONLY PUBLISH IF YOU FEEL 100% COMFORTABLE TO DO SO :
Write about it. Design it. Draw it. Paint it. Photograph it. Compose it. Play it. Whatever it. Publish it. Job Done.
Do it because you want to try something new, learn something, not for a reward. Pingback me and leave a comment with the link to your work.
“Give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime”
Resources & Sources
Nutshell Lane – morgueFile.com
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