Tuesday, 23 April 2013

C is for Concise

First a quick story...

If I cast my mind back to the days of my English Language A-level classes (seems so long ago), there's one exercise which has always stood out. 

In it we read a long, rambling letter about NHS funding. We then had to summarise each paragraph in as few words as possible.

There was one particular paragraph, packed full of long words and linguistic clutter, and it lasted some five or six lines. I can still remember the teacher, with a deadpan expression, chopping it down to just two words: 'Needs money'. Masterful!

The moral of the story: be concise

Fluff is something that you either pick out of your belly button or hoover up off of the carpet. There's no room for it in writing.  

Be concise. Don't use three words where one will do, especially if you're writing advertising copy. For instance, why say 'make a decision' when you can simply write 'decide'? 

Strip away adjectives if they don't add anything to the text. Don't write 'hit somebody hard'. The beauty of the English language is we have a whole load of colourful expressions for acts of violence. So why 'hit someone hard' when, instead, you can slug 'em, crack 'em one, thump 'em or lamp 'em! Bit colloquial, I know, but you get the picture. 

The more concise you are, the easier you'll get your message across. Bury it in a mound of adjectives and set verb + noun phrases, and mix it up with some lousy punctuation, and your message will be lost. Not only that, so will your reader. Ouch!  

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