Since sex is like the honey that the bear loves to lick, I’m hoping to attract your attention to a topic that may seem boring — editing — whilst calling you a horny bear in the process. Forgive me or, better yet, smile.
The point I’m trying to make is that both the title and the opening sentence of a text that isn’t a phone book in disguise, should aim to convince your reader that you’re not wasting their time but that your brainchild is in fact worth their while. So how is this attempt at catchiness related to the importance of size as mentioned in the title? It isn’t, so I digress.
Rule 1: Never digress.
Digression is likely to be one of the reasons why a verbal diamond in the rough is overly long, not to mention incoherent and as a result, unappealing. Don’t you know that people have the attention span of a gnat and expect instant gratification from a quick snack or mega bite? Do not digress! So we’re 174 words into this post and we’ve already encountered our second animal, this time a gnat. I wonder what comes next. A monkey? We might as well stop digressing…right now.
The original opening sentence of this post, by the way, was slightly different. It read: Since sex sells, I’m hoping to have attracted your attention to a topic that may seem boring: editing. So this post would’ve actually started with a cliché (sex sells!) and pretty much ended with a word as unattractive as a hairless ape (boring). Surely we could do better than that?
Rule 2: Avoid clichés.
Rule 3: Don’t try too hard to be funny, no, engaging; a bit will do just fine.
Rule 4: Don’t patronise your readership. (Avoid saying “we”, party animal)
Notice that while rule 2 may be really important, my mentioning it here in a post supposedly on how size matters is a cardinal sin in terms of good penmanship. Don’t sidetrack! Whether adding a licking bear to the mix to amend the damage done through humour is as bright an idea as it seemed at the time, I’ll let you, our well-esteemed fellow-editor, be the judge. Let’s agree on one thing, though.
When your text is supposedly delving deep into the secret mating rituals of the carnivorus bearus, don’t tell your reader on the side that (1) bears eat ants with a stick though (2) really, really prefer juicy beefy cheeseburgers, mind-blowingly interesting as this tid-bit of info may appear to you, yourself and, well, You. Digressing is not good. Digressing is a sin. To tackle this problem, you’d be well advised to show your first draft to one of your more literate friends and be prepared to kill your own babies. Trim that text! Be ruthless! Ditch that pointlessly digressive remark! Less is more! Less is more is a cliché, so press delete-delete and stop shouting! Also ask your friend to spot needless repetitions.
Rule 5: Have a friend point out verbal redundancies you pretend ad infinitum do not exist.
Rule 6: Really avoid really, really. It really doesn’t make your text more convincing.
Rule 7: Don’t shout. Shouting equals really, really.
Unless you’re a sheep, you should also find a way to avoid woolly language. What is woolly language? I hear you think. Well, that would be non-digressive parts in your text that are, unfortunately, presented in the wrong packaging — oversized packaging, to be precise. Wait. Let me rewrite that woolly passage. Here we go. Unless you’re a sheep, avoid woolly language, or oversized non-digressive passages. That’s more like it. Be concise. Use athletic language, not big and fatty phrases that block the bloodstream in your reader’s brain, causing a fatal stroke or worse.
Ironically, slimline is the way to go when size matters. When trying to achieve concision, imagine you are a hungry fox on the hunt for woolly words, not lambs or chickens. Kill them off! Devour them! Consider them an acquired taste! Trim that text of yours! Now, when I say trim your text, I don’t mean trim it to the point of utter starvation. Slimline does not equal bare boned in skinny jeans. That too would be an acquired taste, though I can assure you there wouldn’t be much to eat.
Rule 8: Appreciate the need to slimline woolly passages.
Rule 9: Slimline does not mean starving to death and murdering your text.
An effective way to achieve concision in more formal texts is to replace phrasal verbs with one-word synonyms, and to use noun phrases instead of subject-verb combinations. For example, the sentence This made sure that Ms. Salmon was willing to work together with their team (14 words) can easily be revamped into ‘This ensured Ms. Salmon’s willingness to cooperate with their team’ (10 words) incidentally in the same way that can easily be revamped into can be replaced by, well, can be replaced by. Notice how the phrasal verb made sure was replaced by ensured, a verb which requires an object instead of a that-clause (that + subject-verb combination), paving the way for the sleeker Ms. Salmon’s willingness to co-operate with their team. Isn’t editing a wonderful thing? Say yes.
Here’s another example of woolliness: Many people are very upset indeed by the fact that Trump seems to be everywhere at the same time: on Twitter, in the news, and in countless magazines (28 words). Depending how much you are willing to put your beloved baby on a diet, this sentence can be replaced by the much sleeker Trump’s seeming omnipresence in the media has caused unrest among the population (12 words). Whatever you do, remember that in the end you need a whole lot of practice by doing the hard work time and again (and again, and again) and how big chunks of text can be reduced to that shiny little diamond hiding somewhere in layers of gratuitous fluff. In the end, only practice makes perfect, so what are you waiting for?
Rule 10: Discover where, discover how, discover when.
Redundant as it probably is now that you know the ins and outs of why size matters, here’s a final rule to ice the cake: delete any mention of horny bears, gnats, hairless monkeys, woolly sheep, hungry foxes and non-cooperative fish from your text and you’ll have reduced the length of your baby by at least ten percent.
You may breathe now.
Author, Writer, Storyteller
Jules has an eclectic and colourful history creating stories, writing, articles, blogs, and art philosophy.
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