Thursday, August 23, 2007

Short Cuts

There's something to be said about short posts. Sometimes, when you don't feel like slogging through a hundred words just to hear one argument or another, a short read looks a lot more attractive than some stodgy long essay.

The situation isn't the same from a writer's point of view, though. I suspect that a lot of us just sit down and let the words flow out of our heads, piling onto the computer screen in row after row of text. In short, I don't think that most of us are conscious about the length of our writings -- and by the time we wrap up a piece and see that it has gone far longer than we intended, our first instinct definitely does not involve cutting it down in size.

Sometimes it's a thinly-veiled method to mask our own insecurities. Not all of us find it easy to make a good point from the very beginning, so we end up spouting any number of random arguments until we do hit the right nerve. Empathic authors somehow manage to do this while sounding completely organized and believable. Other authors might end up offending people with some of their scattershot offerings.

I'm not sure when I stopped writing brief excerpts and starting writing the truly long stuff. It could be that I wanted to squeeze as many points into my work as possible -- this, in fact, would have resulted in some really thick paragraph blocks if it weren't for my penchant for standalone text fragments.

Or, if I were to take the reason given above -- I'm probably more insecure than I look.

Now there's a comforting thought.


Anton said...


hi, need your help and support with something i am working on in the blogospehre.

Any post from you would really be appreciated.

you can read more about it here;

Sean said...

Anton: I respect what you're doing and know that you have everyone's best interests in mind. Moreover, I support anyone who passes by your site and joins the initiative that you have set.

With that said, I must respectfully decline your offer. I have a few reasons why:

1) As of this writing, the offending writer has already resigned, and is set to issue a public apology. That makes the issue somewhat moot.

2) I support people who work abroad in order to earn better lives for their families. I believe that it takes a certain dedication to do this, and I believe that the presence of a few human foibles does not detract from this fact. I shouldn't have to have stories about them in order to give them a certain degree of respect; I just give them their props, period.

3) There have been far too many opinions written on the matter already. Simply put, I've missed the boat. I'd rather not jump into the ocean and swim vigorously in a futile attempt to catch up.

4) I don't feel that the writer has realized that she offended a lot of people. I feel that the writer has instead realized that she was offended by a lot of people, and that's a different animal entirely. I don't think that the experience taught her anything as a result, and I don't think that we're going to teach her anything now. The crass hate-mail and angry death threats have spoiled what could have been a perfectly rational response.

I hope that you understand my position on the matter, and I wish you the best of luck with your efforts.

Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

As I've mentioned to you, when I was still teaching, I advocated the idea that the key to effective communication is brevity (even as I frequently violate this myself). I tried to cure my students of the notion that the longer the essay, the better chances of getting a high grade (because usually it just achieved the opposite result, as their ideas get more disorganized and repetitive). I encouraged them to write more concise essays and reports, and set sentence limits for answers to quiz and exam questions. Of course, partly it was also because I wanted to spend less time checking their papers, but I didn't tell them THAT... :p

Sean said...

Ailee: My teachers attempted to do the same things for me... although I guess that they didn't succeed as much as they would have liked. :)

If I did get into teaching, I figure that I wouldn't impose too much in the way of length restriction. For one, I couldn't provide a good example to my students... and for that matter, I'd probably develop a habit of skimming their papers regardless. :(