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Monday, September 26, 2011

Does Brevity = Better?

Last week in my news editing class, we looked at an article entitled "Short," which is about how shortness is taking over media. Readers don't want to waste time reading extraneous words; they want short and to-the-point articles. TV shows are full of snappy lines and quick dialogue (the show "Glee" is cited in the article as an example). Social networking constrains you to 140-character Tweets or 512-character Facebook status updates. When we looked at this article in class, the assignment was to edit it and make it a better article. Most of us ended up making the article shorter by cutting out flowery language and unnecessary anecdotes--which of course emphasizes the author's point.

The assignment really got me thinking about if brevity really is better. I edited "Short" down to 600 words. I keep text messages and emails short and sweet. But, on the other hand, I noticed that I take the opposite approach in my personal writing. When writing academic papers, I take my time explaining my point, because I want to be as articulate and clear as possible. For me, this often takes more than one sentence to do. When I post a piece on Monica's Creative Juices, I look at it on the published page and sometimes think "That's too short." I sometimes have trouble composing a tweet because I have too much to say.

In a way, I value length because length can convey thoughtfulness about the piece instead of superfluousness in language. On the other hand, length can be deceiving by conveying that there is more to it or more going on than there really is. This is why conciseness if favored with hard news articles--tell it how it is, no frills.

There is something to be said about being able to say exactly what you mean exactly how you mean it in just a few sentences. But sometimes it is beneficial to take your time with your words and let things marinate in the readers' minds.

I'm still not sure how I feel about "does brevity = better?" What do you think? Leave your opinion in the comment box.

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