Monday, September 13, 2010

Compress Your Words

Unfortunately, text messaging and email have prompted the everyday writer to compress their words too much. Even so, in Helen Wilkie's writing tip of the day, she suggested getting your message across in as few words as possible. She says most people haven't the time to reread for understanding. She further emphasizes that long rambling sentences and confusing words can obscure your message or even give the wrong message. Make your words say what you mean.

Most writers are limited by word counts for a magazine article and even novels in many cases. My editor at Rocky Mountain Parent or Senior limits my words to 600-650 for most articles. Chicken Soup stories shouldn't be over 1000 and preferably lower.

In other words, write tight.

Tom Chiarella in his book Writing Dialogue sums it up. "Compress your language." Make each word count. Many non-authors think they can write a children's book. "It's easy," they say. However, in children's books, every word must serve a purpose especially since age levels require different word lengths. Besides, TV and movies have shortened attention spans. Bloated writing or dialogue bores children.

When you write, remember to cut, cut, cut. First get the information/story down then go back with a sharp pencil or the computer's highlighter and delete all unnecessary words. I'll read this post several times. Before I publish it, I'll have either deleted a lot or condensed in order to add more important information. I try to keep my posts at or below 500 words. And, that is probably too long.

Here is a tip for writing in spaces that don't provide spellcheck. I copy and paste the writing into a Word document to check spelling.

I've left lots of room for improvement in this post. Get your pencil. Without changing the meaning, see if you can cut it from the current 310 words.


  1. I tend to be a meandering writer, even in essays. I've learned to write the first draft however and go back and slash away. Brevity is appreciated by the reader. I do like to have one or two wafting sentences after a few short punchy ones, to give a slight change of pace (but used sparingly). Great post, I think this is one of the most important elements of writing a new writer can learn.
    Thanks :-)

  2. Thanks, Charmaine. You gave a good example.