Josna Rege

184. Brevity

In Education, Inter/Transnational, Stories, Words & phrases, writing on April 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

1197118418104167762ryanlerch_Decorative_Letter_Set_3.svg.medEven as I was in the act of signing up for the A-to-Z April Challenge, I realized that I was making a big mistake. I had no time to spare in April, and my only hope of completing the challenge lay in being brief.

Brevity is not a quality that has been served well by the electronic media. As writers accustomed to drafting by hand or on manual typewriters begin composing on the computer, their work tends to balloon—but not necessarily to take flight.

In English class as children we had to engage in a now-nearly-extinct exercise known as précis, in which we would have to read an essay and then summarize it with elegance and economy in a few short sentences. But as I grew older, I was rewarded for writing more rather than for writing better, to the point where, as a feature writer for a small-town weekly, I was actually paid by the inch. Naturally there was no incentive to prune rather than to pad.

The trouble is, as I grew older I also found myself with less time, and brevity requires focus, attention, and, for me at least, a lot more time. As the French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote back in the 17th-century, excusing himself for having written too long a letter: “I have made this longer than usual, only because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter.” (Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.)

But this is a too-long, typically-rambling preamble to my entry for today, which I find myself circling around because I’m not accustomed to being brief.

Last night found me rolling B-words around on my tongue as, bleary-eyed, counting sheep, I contemplated my entry for today. It went something like this:

Baa-baa-baa
(bleat bleat)
Blah-blah-blah
(bloat bloat)
Babbling, blithering blather
(bubble-headed booby)
Blistering bombast
(Billions of Bilious Blue Blistering Barnacles)
Blustering braggadochio
(Bashi-bazouk)
Brisk broadside
(Bang bang)
Brevity.

The soul of wit? So they say. I still prefer the long form.

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  1. Love this, Josna. No blistering bombast here!

    • Thank you, Maureen, glad you enjoyed it! Since it was entirely different from my other posts on Tell Me Another, I did it with some trepidation. But also, because I had to be brief, I just did it anyway. Love to you and to the guys x J

  2. I never thought about it before, but brevity can be more time consuming. Knowing how to get right to the point involves more thought than just rambling on. It’s nice to meet you through the challenge, and your thoughtful comment really made my day.

  3. (chuckle) on my unofficial A-Z challenge blog (my personal blog I didn’t register for the challenge but am still trying to do it along with my ‘official’ blog), I did Brevity too–but I was not as verbose as your brevity post. Guess you could say, my blog post about brevity was brief! ha!

    You can do this challenge though–you’ll finish if you really, really want to!

    Love and stuff,
    Michy

  4. Kind of like packing…if you do it quickly, at the last minute, all sorts of unnecessary things end up getting thrown in. Packing with some time to think about it gives time to weed out the superfluous.

    • Absolutely, Jude. I always overpack when I’m in a hurry, and end up not wearing half the clothes I stuff in. Your comment reminds me, too, that you must be packing right now. Will I see you before you leave? (And BTW, I notice I’ve just had a visitor to _Tell Me Another_ from Petrozavodsk: someone you know, by any chance?

  5. I think I spend more time editing than writing. Off the top of my head, I’m verbose. Being concise takes much more time and thought. I agree with you that word processing, rather than typewriting, encourages us (me, anyway) to use far too many words.

    B: Binyam Bluegums, because you introduced me to him!

    • Sarah, you’re absolutely right about what it takes to be concise; which is why I’m afraid I usually tend toward verbosity (to say the least).
      Bunyip Bluegum! Ah, the quotable quotes! xx J

  6. I am having a real problem with Brevity as I write my A-Z blog posts. I think that time has a lot to do with it. I spend all day finding information and I don’t leave enough time to cut down after I write. I can do that next month though.

    • Absolutely, Kristin, there just isn’t time to be brief. And yes, you are producing so much new material that you will have plenty to work with after this month is over. It’s good to remember that we are doing this for ourselves, so the main thing is that it works for us. Thanks for visiting. I look forward to returning to your blog, too.

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