Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Brevity Is A Virtue

Editing is an art of which Adolf has only passing ability.

 Adolph's parents were amateur writers. 

Dad, a sheep and cattle farmer, wrote soppy love stories for the Women's Weekly and a weekly column for the local newspaper.  Both parents were founding members of a local writers' club which  prospered for over twenty years.  I'm grateful for their tutelage.

At university, the importance of brevity was drummed into me. "No bank officer wants to read five pages of waffle when what he needs to know could fit on one page."

Of course, the most notable of all advocates for brevity was Churchill who famously demanded a 'one page report' on issues of major importance.

Anyway, three valuable hints given to me by my father were:

1  Never use the word 'that' other than for describing 'this or that' whatever it might be.

2  Read what you have written line by line and strive to remove unnecessary words.

3  Look hard to see if one word can do the job of two words in the draft.

Here are just a couple of examples:-

"No bank officer wants to read five pages of waffle when what he needs to know could fit on one page."

becomes:-

"No bank officer wants to read five pages of waffle when what he needs could fit on one page."

and

".......the most notable of all advocates for brevity was Churchill who famously demanded a 'one page report' on issues of major importance."

becomes:-

........the most notable advocate for brevity was Churchill who famously demanded a 'one page report' on important issues.

Ever generous, I commend this post especially to david who writes acres of crap.




11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aw I would have thought Dodger would be first in line for your commendation.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Well he is but I would never be so impolite as to cast nasturtiums upon a fellow blog author.

I must admit to now and again, with his permission, going in and doing a little tidying up.

Anonymous said...

A friend I made while we both completed an MBA at the London Business School was a senior civil servant. His case study answers were never more than one A4 page. And his PhD in his chemistry dissertation at Oxford University was one line. Brevity is to be admired.

David said...

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans . . . We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills

becomes "We'll fight".

Sort of loses a bit of punch.

Of course, Churchill would have written on foolscap, a bit larger than A4. :-)

Adolf writes on A6 as he cannot fill an A5 sheet.

Furthermore, there can be, especially in times of trouble and war, a significant difference between "major importance" and mere "Importance".


David said...

In Adolf's world

To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. -- Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! -- Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.


Becomes "YOLO".

Think I prefer the original.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Like all lefties, david seeks to confuse - this time by comparing literature and oratory with commentary.

Anonymous said...

I think that you are confused by Churchill's call for Brevity in 1940. It was not about deleting a word or two.

http://www.businessinsider.fr/uk/memo-winston-churchill-on-brevity-improve-writing-2017-5/

George said...

The main essence of any writing can and should be summed up by:
Who, What, Why, When. Where and How.
In the first column inch, elaborate from there

Noel said...

I wonder what he would have done if someone had substituted a "woolly" with "you had better bloody consider these caveats" before you make your decision.

alwyn said...

John Kenneth Galbraith was a Harvard Economist and, among other things, Ambassador to India and an editor on Fortune magazine. He gave a great deal of credit for his very good writing to Henry Luce. Luce was the founder of the magazines Time, Life and Fortune.
They were totally dissimilar in their political views. However Galbraith praised Luc as the greatest editor he had ever seen.

'I was an editor of Fortune under Henry Luce, the founder of Time, Inc., who was one of the most ruthless editors that I have ever known, that anyone has ever known. Henry could look over a sheet of copy and say, "This can go, and this can go, and this can go," and you would be left with eight to ten lines which said everything that you had said in twenty lines before. And I can still, to this day, not write a page without the feeling that Henry Luce is looking over my shoulder and saying, "That can go."'

I imagine Luce would have been a man after your own heart.

David said...

Looks like you dad didn't take his own advice.

1 Never use the word 'that' other than for describing 'this or that' whatever it might be.

2 Read what you have written line by line and strive to remove unnecessary words.

3 Look hard to see if one word can do the job of two words in the draft.

---

1 Never use the word 'that' unless describing 'this or that'.

2 Read what you have written and remove unnecessary words.

3 Look if one word can replace two words.

47 words condensed to 27.