Editors: Cut with courage

Making sentences more compact enhances meaning and impact.

Convoluted sentences lose the reader. Extraneous phrases waste time and blur meaning. And if it really is ‘needless to say,’ why are we saying it?

Every student who struggled through an English or a writing class is familiar with the admonition to write more concisely. “Tighten up your sentences.” “Cut with courage.” “Shorten the paragraphs.”

It probably seemed the world was overpopulated with words and the writer’s job was to employ as few as possible in order to reduce this surplus. The advice may have appeared arbitrary. It’s only later the writer realizes brevity has additional virtues.

Today’s audiences are far less patient with length. They want a fast read, a quick synopsis of facts. Publication editors recognize this and provide more brief items, fewer lengthy essays.

But that’s not the main reason for brevity.

“Short” is good. Making the sentence more compact enhances meaning and impact. Hemingway said that if the author leaves something out and knows what he is leaving out, and if the reader knows what he is leaving out, it makes the prose that much stronger. We supply the bridge.

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