Since the end of the last century, many words have been written and said about minimizing the use of vehicles, fuel, heat, power, water, food, packaging, building materials and more. We are supposed to SAVE vital resources.
I think it's time to say a few words about using fewer words.
- It's not just lawyers. Many 'ordinary' folks have a strange impulse to pompously inflate their sentences when they speak or touch a keyboard. They'll type "Utilize" instead of the simpler "use" and "terminate" instead of the space-saving "end" or "stop."
- Avoid lawyerly phrases like "In the process of" and "for the purpose of."
- Many people overuse adverbs. They often add nothing useful. Purge "basically," "currently" "seriously."
A sign on this gas pump says, "Product Contains Up to 15% Ethanol." If the first two words were deleted from the sign, would the message be less clear?
The same principle applies to writing books, articles, blogs and websites. Almost any page can easily shed a word or ten or more—and be improved by the pruning.
I tend to be pedantic (a trait I inherited from my father). I naturally give lots of examples to prove a point. I recently self-imposed a rule to limit examples to THREE—and my arguments are no less forceful.
Print-On-Demand and ebooks are certainly efficient. But if every writer would eliminate two pages out of every 100 pages, book printers would use less paper, ink, toner, glue, energy and time; the trucks that move the books would save fuel, the UPS driver's knees might last longer—and readers would save time.
AND... the books would probably be better if they were briefer.
In an electronic medium like a blog or ebook where paper isn't purchased or stored, writers have unlimited space to spew all of the words they want to and the lack of limits encourages sloppiness.
Advertising is very different.
Despite the banking horror I described above, there is usually a limit on words.
- If a copywriter writes too many words to fit in a one-page ad, he shouldn't use tiny type and can't assume that the client will pay $30,000 extra to run a two-page ad.
- If she writes too many words to fit into a 30-second commercial, she can't decree that the actors must speak faster, or that the client must pay for more air time.
Bank story from my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults). Available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats.