Brevity of Words

I find it hard to be succinct, even when I know that sometimes it’s best. Which is funny, because as a teacher I’m often telling my students to stop being so wordy, especially with so much filler they like to throw around like confetti. And I guess that’s the real difference between them and me. I avoid filler as much as I possibly can while they think that filler is the best way to reach teacher-imposed goals.

“Write a paragraph using 8 sentences.”

“I am Jim. I like to eat fried rice. Fried rice is good for dinner. My mom makes fried rice. Sometimes it’s hot. I wait for it to cool. Sometimes it takes a while. I’m good at waiting.”

What did he really say in those 8 sentences? Not much of anything. So it’s 8 sentences, but it doesn’t GO anywhere, which is so frustrating, but Jim will come back to me when I hand back the paragraph with so much red ink on it wondering where he went wrong. Simply put, it’s in the lack of subject matter, and in the lack of sentence variety. So it goes both ways. I want them to be succinct, but I don’t want them to have very little substance.

In my own personal writing I’ve worked hard on packing in more meaning using a brevity of words. Instead of stretching those words thin I have been pressing them together, giving them a heaviness that could weigh them down but that instead keeps them grounded. It’s really about dancing on that thin line, hoping I don’t fall. Because nothing’s worse than looking back at a piece of writing to see that it still doesn’t say what I want it to say, even though I edited it like crazy and cut out swaths of extraneous words.

At those times I think maybe being succinct is overrated. And I try to find those words I cut, so I can apologize, and we can fall in love again.

Sam

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