Be succinct

Editors clarify. Editors pare. Editors question. I need an editor. Although Strunk and White in their timeless Elements of Style have not eluded criticism—(see “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice”) their advice continues to be relevant with what I’ll go on record as saying is a still-constructive, guiding philosophy on style.

An oft-quoted section provides the basis of what my editors and colleagues so often remind me: “Be succinct.”

In conversation, a long story may cause the mind to wander. Say what you mean. Let’s get to it.

III. Elementary Principals of Composition

#13. Omit needless words.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Of course, just as we may agree to “all things in moderation,” we each understand it differently. A dinner of moderates may differ by hundreds of calories. So it goes with “needless words” in conversation, in presentation, and on the page. That’s why listening is so important. Have you been heard?

Succinct writing includes a focus on:

Clarity We tend to think that if every word is important then more is better, but most often the opposite is true. Less is more. Get to the point.
Attention Think of each communication as a first impression; you don’t get a second chance. Make a statement.
Comprehension Combine the above to be understood. Too succinct? Use your active listening skills to determine if you’ve been understood. Once you’ve made a connection, your listener will ask for more.

My editor just walked in. Guess I’ll end it here.

Posted by Frank J. Mendelson | Business, Business Communications, Communications | Comments 0 |
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