Writing Concisely

If somebody sets out in great detail what is before us, we very quickly become bored. That is not the way we see the world; we look for salience, we look for the feature that will engage our interest… The trouble with overwritten prose is that it takes away from the reader the opportunity to imagine a scene. We do not want to be told everything; we want a few brushstrokes, a few carefully chosen adjectives, and then we can do the rest ourselves. (Wall Street Journal)

Crisp, concise language sounds like a worthy goal. And indeed it is. But words are so delicious, so tempting, so distracting. It’s often quite difficult to cull the best and lose the rest. Especially because we writers like words, collect words, romance words, get totally distracted words… See where I’m going? It can be damned difficult to weed out all the superfluous language. Even when we know it’s the right way to write!

Alexander McCall Smith’s article, “Block that Adjective“, hits the nail on the head:

“For some people, being able to use all these words is rather like being faced with a chocolate box with multiple layers; the temptation to overindulge is just too great.”

Yup. I’m one of those chocolate lovers. Hello, I’m George Davis, and I’m a word glutton. Recognizing I have a problem is half the battle right? Nope. Not even close. It’s a fresh battle each time I sit down to edit what I’ve written. Clean out the clutter. Clean out the distractions. Clean out the overindulgence. What’s left? The essence. The story…

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