Find words to make
A poem line precisely right:
Decidedly, noticeably short in
Exactly seventeen little words.
Look both ways in poetry and life.
Mind the gaps in both.
The young man stood straight as the teacher’s loud, angry voice bristled. She berated his atrocious spelling and wretched grammar. He held back tears of shame and anger as she publicly humiliated him. She declared his entire family abysmal failures as human beings destined for an eternity in hell.
He found abysmal in the dictionary. When his mother later asked how he had done on the school paper he worked on so diligently, he reported that the teacher said it was very deep and that the entire family was destined for infinite success.
Look both ways. They may forgive, but they’ll not forget.
Mind the gaps. No memory is flawless.
I’m not sure what I expected from How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark. But it was better than that. I make all the writing errors, especially using too many words. So, while I was looking for what might improve my writing, I learned much more about our craft. Writing short applies to all writing, but the focus of the book is intentionally writing well using fewer words.
Some of the best, most memorable English language writings are short. I try to keep my blogs brief, but they often surge over 800 words. I’ll continue to work on that; to chop, murder, and cut.
This book was great. For one thing, it’s a readable, friendly style to my liking. If you’re a writer, journalist, poet, or ad hack, this is a good book you. You can plow through it quickly.
The 35 brief chapters are divided into two sections. Section I, How to Write Short, has chapter titles that deliver on the promise to improve short writing. Such as the following famous short writes:
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
“A feeling is an idea with roots.”
Or, from the top of my blog page, Into every life rain must fall (from “Into each life some rain must fall” ~ Longfellow)
Dr. Clark provides motivation and reasons for short writing.
The second section consists of 13 chapters where he tells how to write short with a purpose.
Even if you’re only mildly curious about writing short, I recommend this book.
Some WordPress blogs provide prompts that are helpful practice for developing the craft of writing short. One I like is one liner Wednesdays. Can you can suggest others?
Who would not like to get the point across in fewer words? Okay, some, but few.
Keep it short. Look both ways.