I seem to be cursed with an undeniable need to edit and critique the writing of others. Everywhere I look I see misuses of our marvelous language. When I worked as an editor for a few years I finally got in touch with my inner English teacher. Red pen in hand, I labored over the writing of others to make them and me look better. But lately I can’t help but notice how most writers, even professionals, use TOO MANY WORDS. After over twelve years of writing professionally, I see in my old writing and that of just about everyone else, a tendency to be over-wordy. Let’s call that verbose or “expresses thoughts with more words than are needed.”
Yes I can just hear a few editors who critiqued my freelance pieces ten years ago saying, “Too many words!” Of course, back then I was getting paid by the word. Why not throw in a few extras? I’ve always been more a fan of the “get to your point and then stop” type of writing. Some have even critiqued my chapters or books by saying they’re so short. Well, I said what I came to say and then I shut up. I could never be the fiction writer who runs on for hundreds of pages.
“I am a minimalist. I like saying the most with the least.” ~Bob Newhart
So, here’s what I recommend. After you write a piece for public consumption, re-read it and see how many words you can remove and still get your exact same point across. Writing for others is not the same as keeping a journal. What do you want your audience to take away from reading your piece? The fewer the words, the more likely they will read the whole thing, get to your point, and then absorb it.
But, most important of all, please keep writing! It frees the soul, it lifts the spirits, it gives you a secret friend to talk to anytime you need to. Reading and writing have always been two of my best friends. I honestly have no idea where I would be without them. I have learned literally volumes of information and experienced so many new parts of the world and great adventures by reading about them. I have learned who I am by writing a journal for many decades. And finally, I hate to brag, but I’m very good at Jeopardy! I love it when none of the contestants know the answer but I do…
We read (and write!) to know we are not alone.