On 11/26/2014 9:35 AM, Xenophaneros Anartaxius [FairfieldLife] wrote:
Share wrote:
'So Xeno, now that you've been corrupted into writing short posts, would you deem them also thin?'

Because the universe may be perceived in pieces, all is corruptible; no thing is immune from being demeaned, truncated, belittled, debased, degraded, despised, disparaged, abased, and detracted from. Those that that think they are incorruptible (Judy comes to mind) are not aware of their own human nature and the nature of the world.

A single brief post many does not make, Share. If you look at most posts by Fleetwood, they tend to be short. Barry on the other hand sometimes writes quite a bit. He may even write more than Fleetwood, but he normally collects his thoughts together and arranges them instead of shooting from the hip. The post count limit we used to have tended to force people to be a bit more coherent in their output. Whether or not you like what Barry writes, his output is more coherent and well thought out than Fleetwood's, because he is less impulsive. Fleetwood is also more dismissive, preferring not to delve into an issue he cannot be bothered with, and so he writes a quick dismissive note ignoring any points made. While Barry can be dismissive too, after all he does not read a lot of posts here, but he often goes into some detail why he thinks something is nuts.

The master here on FFL of often lengthy but usually irrelevant posting is Richard. When he gets going, no one can match Richard for pointless quantity and number of posts. It always seems to me that Richard is seeing what goes on FFL out the corner of his eye, but his mind is elsewhere with a different agenda (i.e., trolling) so the posts look as if they have something to do with a particular discussion but really do not have that much relevance. In my e-mail I have a Richard folder, and from time to time just mark them 'all read'. When I post, because I am a slow writer, and tend to length, I do not have time to read too many posts, maybe because I take too long to write them, and so cannot remain in any particular conversation for very long most of the time.

Thank you heartily for noticing that I am corruptible. There is a wonderful grit to corruption and graft, ill will and misunderstanding. It is the spice of life, and the greatest moments are when we can smooth over that roughness with a bit of harmony. Life then is not thin and drawn or empty. I do think before I write.

But if you are interested in brevity, take a gander at the following:

*The Lost Art of Brevity* by Mike Myatt

Do you ever grow weary of listening to the verbose, or reading the work of those that have issues with clear articulation? I certainly do…but fear not; the lost art of brevity is making a comeback. Those of you that know me have come to understand that I prefer to cut to the chase. I like to get to the root of an issue as quickly as possible. While I appreciate the great oratory skills of those who communicate using wonderful word pictures, or the academics who can wax eloquent while always using the best form of prose, I prefer my business communication to be quick and dirty. In the immortal words of Jack Webb: "The facts ma'am…just the facts." In today's post I'll look at the benefits associated with the resurgence of brevity.

Let me begin clearly stating that it is not my goal to be perceived as a word-basher. I appreciate anyone who has command of a great vocabulary, but I don't have time for a 30 minute explanation of something that could have been, and should have been, communicated in 2 minutes. Brevity is rare because it takes both skill and effort to simplify the complex. It's easier to remain ethereal, vague and ambiguous than it is to communicate with purpose and clarity. My message today is a simple one – refining your communications skill is well worth the effort. Don't be the person known for rambling on, be the person known for being articulate and to the point.

Probably the greatest example of the power of brevity comes from what is widely considered to be the greatest speech in American history: "The Gettysburg Address." President Lincoln's speech was only 10 sentences long (272 words), and lasted less than a mere 3 minutes in length. Contrast Lincoln's brilliant example of the power of brevity with the keynote speech that day. The renowned orator Edward Everett preceded President Lincoln on the podium at Gettysburg. Everett's speech was an amazing two hours in length. He was after all the President of Harvard, but I digress…My question is this: which speech was more effective, and more memorable? Ah, the power of brevity…

The good news is that there are two big trends emboldening those of us who prefer brevity over other more irritating forms of communication. First is the time pressure for our attention. People simply don't have the time to listen to, or read, unnecessarily long forms of communication. The second trend is technology's recognition of the first trend. Emails, voicemails, instant messages, text messages, blogs, Tweets, Facebook updates, etc., simply don't lend themselves to the indulgence of pompous grandeur.

If you think I'm joking when I mention Twitter, think again. If you want to become a better writer and refine your sense of brevity, all you have to do is to start Tweeting. Regardless of how you feel about Twitter as a platform or practice, it is brilliant in its mandate of brevity. Twitter requires that all your communication be conducted in 140 characters (including punctuation and spaces) or less. Even given this stringent requirement, some of the most intriguing, complex, savvy, and sometimes ridiculous thoughts are being expressed at a rapidly growing pace. In 140 characters or less, elections are influenced, news is being broken, relationships are being created and expanded, brands are being built, trust is being build, influence is being generated, and products & services are being sold. Don't underestimate the power of brevity.

One of my favorite lines from Shakespeare's Hamlet is "Brevity is the soul of wit," and if you examine those people in your life you respect the most I'm certain you'll find they do justice to Shakespeare's ideal. If you require one last example of the power of brevity, let me ask you to examine the incredible influence that something as brief as a simple quote can have. Think about how often a sentence or two written down in the form of a quote has created a legacy long surpassing many more complex and lengthy works. Most people can cite several of Mark Twain's quotes, but only a few of his books.

So, how do you know if you're guilty of contributing to the destruction of brevity? If you exhibit any of the tell-tale signs below you may want to seek out some help:

If your tag-line is more than 4 words in length;
If the most frequently used words in your vocabulary are "and," "um" & "but;"
If people are consistently dozing off during your keynote;
If the bailout rate on your webcasts are high;
If use of the scroll bar is a requirement for reading your email;
If you run out of time leaving a voicemail message….
If you kill your cell phone battery with one conversation…
If your PowerPoint slides need to be read instead of viewed;
If you URL is so long that it confuses people, and;
If you need a teleprompter to deliver a speech.
Bottom line…I'm in awe of those who have mastered the art of brevity, and after looking back at this post I must admit that I still have some work to do…

*Keep it Short* by Danny Heitman

In my first daily newspaper job some 25 years ago, I learned a few lessons about brevity that I'm still using today. Back then, among other editorial chores, I contributed to a weekly feature called "Books in Brief." Each review could be no longer than 200 words — less than a fourth the length of a usual article. Imagine a slender column of type slightly taller than your middle finger, and you'll get some idea of the word limit.

As a recent college graduate accustomed to discussing books in 12-page term papers, I chafed at writing in miniature. But I tried to think deliberately about my reviews as a form of quick conversation. If I were briefly summarizing my opinion over the phone, for example, how would I shape my argument to nab my listener by the collar before he hung up? What I was reminding myself, I suppose, is that writing is a kind of talk, a discourse that must eventually answer to the clock. In writing, brevity works not only as a function of space on a page, but the time that an audience is willing to spend with you. Even if the Internet has made infinite texts possible, the reader's attention is not without end.

To shorten my articles, I often worked through several versions, and with a merciless finger on the delete button I could surgically reduce my first draft by half.

The exercise taught me that successful economy of expression often depends on vigorous revision. Perhaps no one exemplifies this principle more vividly than E.B. White, the magazine essayist and children's author celebrated for his deceptively simple style. White excelled in a number of forms, including "Talk of the Town" items for The New Yorker — graceful editorials that derived much of their charm from their compact scale. Although White's gift for saying much in a few words looked effortless, he often achieved his pith by distilling one draft after another to its elegant essence. At the conclusion of his White biography, the author Scott Elledge lets readers look over White's shoulders as he hones a New Yorker commentary on the first moon landing in 1969.

White begins his first draft with some wry comparisons of a moon launch to a picnic at the beach, but by his sixth draft, he's jettisoned all the preliminary repartee, beginning with his true subject, international unity, and dropping about 100 unnecessary words in the bargain. Here's the first paragraph of the piece he finally turned in to The New Yorker's editor, William Shawn:

The moon, it turns out, is a great place for men. One-sixth gravity must be a lot of fun, and when Armstrong and Aldrin went into their bouncy little dance, like two happy children, it was a moment not only of triumph but of gaiety. The moon, on the other hand, is a poor place for flags. Ours looked stiff and awkward, trying to float on the breeze that does not blow.

White's handiwork reminds us that writing economically also means getting to the point. Such urgency can be a blessing, helping a writer achieve the kind of clarity that sustains all good composition.

The late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who wrote wisely and well about his chosen field, once recalled the relentless winnowing of his prose at the hands of his former boss, Henry Luce, the founder of Time:

In his hand was a pencil; down on each page one could expect, at any moment, a long swishing wiggle accompanied by the comment: "This can go." Invariably it could. It was written to please the author and not the reader. Or to fill in the space. The gains from brevity are obvious; in most efforts to achieve it, the worst and the dullest go. And it is the worst and the dullest that spoil the rest.

Refining a draft is a process of elimination that, like any contest advancing the survival of the fittest, tends to dramatize what's left standing when the competition is complete. Like passengers in a lifeboat, all the words in a concise text must pull their own weight. That's why good poetry, which places a premium on brevity, stakes such a claim on a reader's attention.

Consider how much William Carlos Williams manages to convey in his tiny poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow": "so much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow / glazed with rain / water / beside the white / chickens." In only a handful of words, Williams gives us a lot to think about: the tension between beauty and function, the boundary between man and nature, the interplay between what we make and what, in a sense, makes us.

I frequently hear champions of brevity advising writers to cut their word counts by scratching all the adjectives or adverbs. But "The Red Wheelbarrow" would be radically diminished if that little modifier, "red," had been left on the cutting room floor. In coloring his wheelbarrow, Williams transforms it from an abstraction into a tangible object of reflection.

The point of brevity isn't to chop a certain kind of word, but to make sure that each word is essential. And brevity, whatever its virtues, must be balanced against a multitude of other needs in composition. If extreme brevity were the only goal of writing, after all, we wouldn't have "Moby-Dick" or "Anna Karenina." Not every piece of writing requires a Spartan word limit.

"The Elements of Style," coauthored by White and William Strunk Jr., shows us how to strike the right balance:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

I tend to have longer word limits for my work today than those bite-size book reviews I wrote many years ago, but the basic imperative of brevity remains. Which is why, I suppose, the essay you're reading now has been cut by about a third of its original length.

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