Brevity

My goal was to write a short post.

My posts tend to be on the longer side, and while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with lengthier posts, I realized that it might be limiting my potential audience.

When I talk to my friends, I may ask them if they’ve checked out my latest post.  Sometimes I’ll get replies like, “I haven’t had time to read it yet,” or “I got busy so I wasn’t able to read it all.”

I interpret these comments to mean either:

  • “I have no interest in what you wrote.”
  • “I like your blog, but I don’t like it enough to make the time commitment necessary to read a thousand words about G.I.Joe or Laser Tag.”

As captivating as my writing must be, I suppose that not everyone always wants to hunker down to read a long post.  Some people want their blogs to be like their Easy Mac: Quick and easy to consume.

It's easy!  It's mac!  It's Easy Mac!  (Photo source: Flickr)

It’s easy! It’s mac! It’s Easy Mac! (Photo source: Flickr)

So while this blog will always contain its share of lengthier posts, I decided to make an effort to include more shorter, easy-to-read posts as well.

My target was 500 words.  That didn’t seem so tough.  Surely I’d be able to effectively make a point in 500 words.  As a bonus, I’d be able to enter it into this week’s Yeah Write grid. (Which I did!)

I picked a topic that I thought I could cover in under 500 words and began pounding away at the keyboard.  (Pounding is a very accurate way to describe my typing style.  Multiple co-workers have asked me if I was angry at my keyboard.)

I started getting into it.  The words kept coming and coming, and when I finally came up for air, I checked my word count.  I had already typed 565 words!

How did this happen?  This was supposed to be a short post!  Apparently, I either have too much to say (possible), or I need to learn to be more concise with my writing. (likely)

I suspect that my lack of formal writing training is the main cause of my wordiness.  Aside from some college classes and an online course on creative writing, I haven’t had any real education when it comes to writing.

I could also use an editor.  It would be nice to have someone offer suggestions like, “You’re being redundant,” or “This sentence is unnecessary.”

Since I overshot my goal so badly, I pushed that entry aside for the time being.  In its place, I wrote this post which discusses my attempt to write a different post.  I know, it’s all very meta.

One thing I’ve discovered: Some of the people who don’t have the attention span necessary to read my longer posts do enjoy skipping ahead to watch a video at the end.

So to all you short attention spanners out there, this teaser trailer of Anchorman 2 is for you!


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About The Cutter

I am the Cutter. I write some stuff. You might like it, you might not. Please decide for yourself.
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44 Responses to Brevity

  1. My posts always start out at 600 or 800 words. Have you read Anne Lamott? (I always misspell her name, just so you know. Double the M or T, but not both, I think.) Bird by Bird is an excellent writing guide. Don’t worry if your first draft is too long. Good writing NEVER comes on the first draft. It comes from editing.You did exactly the right thing to set the entry aside. But don’t set it aside and forget it. Come back to it with fresh eyes a day or two from now and see what you can change. You might be surprised.

  2. I have extensive training in English (two degrees! No really!) but it hasn’t made my writing any shorter. It was actually far harder for me to shrink my papers down to three pages or 500 words or whatever because blah, blah, blah. So I run on and on and on, mostly because I can. If people don’t like long posts, I spit on them. Not really, that’s not very sanitary and it’s a really long way to aim. SEE, I can’t even write short comments?

    If it helps, almost no one I know personally reads my blogs on a regular basis. They are like, what’s a blog? Or, yeah, I was going to, but I had to fix some Easy Mac. By the way, Easy Mac is really nasty. I prefer longer version mac n cheese. Hmm.

    And yes OF COURSE you must write long posts on G.I. Joe because ME. I also forward them to my brother who has like every single Joe figure ever I’m pretty certain. Oh, and you write on Laser Tag? Did I read that one? I should go look. What other geeky things do you write about? Because likely I like it then and will go read and pat you on the back like you deserve. 😀

  3. I am also reading Bird by Bird and would recommend it. Good luck with being concise! Become a Yeah Write supporting member and you could have an editor in your back pocket!

  4. goldfish says:

    I have a tendency to be long-winded, too. I figure either people will read it or they won’t, but I’m not gonna censor myself on my own blog. That said, it’s good to try new things once in a while.

  5. I tend to write long posts as well. I like to think my writing is easy to read, but still, I think a lot of potential readers see the word count and skip it. I do that myself as a reader. I read this one because it wasn’t 1800 words! Lol. I’d have read it eventually, but I like to knock few shorter ones out at lunch and save the longer ones for later.

    • The Cutter says:

      I say I’ll save the longer ones for later, and then usually never get around to it. Too many people creating too much good stuff!

  6. List of X says:

    I usually have just the opposite problem, and since I was in school I always had trouble with essays if they were supposed to be longer than a page. But I did have a couple of posts that went to over 1500 words, and they weren’t even my usual lists, so I know how wordcountophobia feels.

  7. Daniel Nest says:

    Getting carried away with words is something I’m also guilty of. My initial posts tended to run up to 2000 words, but every since I’ve learned that in the blogging world you really have to try and keep it short. So now I aim for around 600-700 max. Yet, just like you, I’ll always have my staple longer posts every now and then.

    I guess this comment was redundant. And unnecessary. Unnecessarily redundant. Redundantly unnecessary. Yeah, I could easily cut most of those words.

  8. twindaddy says:

    They say you should attempt to keep your posts under 1000 words. I have no idea who “they” are, but I mostly stick to that. Not on purpose, though, that’s just the way it works out.

  9. Melanie says:

    So, hi. I’m new here. Nice to meet you. My first clue that you may post long, uh, posts, is your name. Ramble and Brevity are opposites, yes?
    I do long too. 1000 words is my average, and that’s after editing.
    Back to the point…65 words isn’t that many to cut. One thing I do is to go back through and find all the times I used the word “that” where I didn’t need to. For example, if I may, which I will do anyway, your sentence “I realized that it might be limiting my potential audience” makes just as much sense if you say “I realized it might be limiting my potential audience”. See? Delete “that” and wha-la. Sentence still reads like a sentence, and you’re down to however many you started with minus one. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need “that”. Sometimes you don’t need “that”.

    • The Cutter says:

      So the key to brevity is just limiting the use of the word “that?” That was easy!

    • Melanie says:

      It’s one of the most over-used, under-needed words. There are other ways, but it’s the first thing I do when cutting the word count.

  10. Val Mills says:

    I don’t watch the videos, but I do tend to read shorter posts over my morning coffee before I rush out the door. I agree 500 words or so is good to aim for, but not always as easy to achieve. I went to a workshop once where the advice was ‘always cut 10 %’- best advice I had 🙂

  11. Karen says:

    I feel your pain. I am also trying to embrace brevity. Participating in the Yeah Write weekly challenge has actually been really helpful. And I agree with the others – Bird by Bird is awesome.

  12. mamarific says:

    So hard to stick to a word limit, but I’ve found that it has definitely made me a better writer. It forces me to scrutinize each and every word and cut out the fluff. Stick with it for Yeah Write, and you can’t help but get better at it.

  13. I’ve read all the blog posting advice and now promptly ignore it. A post is done when it’s done and it turns out, around 800 words is where I usually land. I’m a merciless editor, though and rewrite things until I burn myself out, then hit “Publish”. I’ll vouch for Bird by Bird as well – one of the better writing advice books – Lamott is a very engaging writer..

    • The Cutter says:

      I know that some posts do have to be longer, but surely I could find some things to talk about in a brief fashion, right?

    • I’m sure you could, just like I could come up with pithy things to tweet in 140 characters or less. The bigger question is whether or not you want to. I’m not saying I don’t write shorter pieces on occasion, but it’s because the writing demands it, not because of random rules about the length.

  14. Tua says:

    Oh yes, brevity is a MAJOR problem. Every time I want to limit myself it just doesn’t feel right. Either I am cutting my story short or whatever I am writing doesn’t have a story. But you did it, right! And added a video. You are up for a lot of readers today! 🙂

  15. djmatticus says:

    I’ve been noticing lately, that as I intentionally have moved to trying to be more creative, to write some short stories and other works of fiction, that my “likes” and “comments” have started to drop off. But, when I post a silly picture of one of my cats, *boom* the kingdom explodes with activity again. I’m still trying to work on getting the right mixture of the writing I want to do, and the silliness that everyone wants to consume going… well, that, and I’d really like to write a bit of fiction that explodes as much as a grumpy cat meme…

    • The Cutter says:

      I mean, that’s partially to be expected. It takes much less effort to read a short post or to see a picture of a cat. I mean, I’m guilty of doing it myself. But I agree that it would be nice if the longer, more heartfelt stuff got the same amount of love.

  16. Larks says:

    I hear you. I’m one verbose individual. “Just write shorter posts and edit and your writing will be brief and to the point” always sounds like, “Just diet and exercise and you’ll hit your goal weight.” I mean, yes. That’s true. It’s simple but not easy.

  17. iasoupmama says:

    I find that the more I practice this writing thing, the tighter my posts become. And my average post has come down from 1200 words to between 500-600 pretty much all the time. Thanks for linking up to yeah write — it was the single best thing I’ve done for myself in years.

  18. Gina says:

    This is great because I always think my stories/posts are fantastically detailed at 750 words and it has been a challenge. But I do “get” it now. I understand cutting and editing until something is so crisp and tight. Yeah Write (and Flood) helped me greatly with this. Great post.

  19. nataliedeyoung says:

    Haha, I DID love this meta-post. 🙂 Writing is a tricky beast.

  20. I love meta!! Def come back to the post. Mine are always too long and require editing!

  21. Love it! I’m in the same boat with you. I love to write, but apparently my brain thinks “why use 500 words when 2000 will do just as well?” I’m loving learning to cut to the chase, painful as it sometimes is… 🙂 Good luck to both of us!

  22. The Hook says:

    Just ride the creative wave and let it take you where it will.
    The results have been great so far!

  23. I tend to run off at the mouth as well on my posts. Of course, I also type by the seat of my pants with very little editing. One trick I use that I think actually works to help make my longer posts easier to read is to separate all paragraphs with an image and silly caption. It not only adds some visual comic relief, but it creates the illusion of being quicker to read the same way an illustrated book would opposed to the same book with all text. I think just the appearance of wordiness can look daunting and make people shy away from reading something (I know it does me on occasion)….

  24. Pingback: Pity Party | The Cutter Rambles

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