Keeping it real – short

I admit it – I’ve written some long blog posts. As I said in one of them, everybody needs an editor, including me.

This image is just brimming over with significance, don’t you think?

Still, I like to think my blogs are just jam-packed with useful info that you, my tiny, but adoring public, are clamoring for. I like to imagine both of you sitting breathlessly by your monitors, waiting with eager anticipation for the next set of IMPORTANT WORDS to be set free in this blog. A man can dream, can’t he?

Still, something happened today that will make me change my ways, at least, a little bit. I read a couple of other blogs. I was editing one of them, but the other I was reading for personal edification. The first one was good and tight – even before I started working on it. The other was – well, here’s an excerpt:

“PC companies such as Toshiba, Sony and Acer have made some very thin, light and powerful notebooks and pre-ultrabooks over the years, and many versions of the tablet PC have been tried, right up to Samsung’s excellent Series 7 Slate which is arguably the best Windows tablet available after a decade of everyone trying, before Microsoft’s Surface was announced a few weeks ago and blew many away by looking like they could be an absolutely fantastic hybrid blend of true tablet and true ultrabook PC, complete with two models of awesomely integrated keyboard unlike anything previously seen on the market!”

That’s right – that was a 99-word sentence!   And it was not by any means the only example of a run-on sentence in this guy’s tech blog (I considered linking to it, but I’m not as interested in shaming the writer as I am in making my point). I found the whole experience of reading it both profound, and somewhat disturbing.

I’ve never had quite as serious a problem with run-ons. But this ridiculous example of out-of-control verbosity has made me see the need to lean harder on my personal brevity switch. So expect shorter blogs from me.

In the meantime, let’s make this a teachable moment. Back when I was a cub reporter, newspapers had rules about the length of a lead paragraph. The rules varied according to the publication you were writing for, but the results were similar. Here’s my version of this general rule of thumb, ever more applicable in this age of web communication and short attention spans:

No sentence should ever go more than 25 words. That is, unless it’s completely impossible to say what you need to by that point. In that case, I’ll give you 30 words. Anything more, and you get on the floor and give me 50 – pushups, that is.

I’m sure I owe myself some pushups, when I think about it. But as I say, I’ve learned my lesson.

The fact is, most sentences can be much, much shorter. Remember, the period is your friend. Don’t hate on the period.

Packing your writing with so many super-long sentences is annoying to your reader.  You may as well be one of those people who can’t shut up until they run out of breath. When their eyes un-glaze, they realize you left – figuratively or literally – 10 minutes into their diatribe.

So don’t be one of those people. Take a breath every now and then. Use punctuation. Keep it tight. And keep it real. Later.


Author: nickpattersonfreelance

I'm a professional reporter, writer, editor, teacher, storyteller. A former travel and features editor for Southern Living, I started Velleity because people keep offering me travel stuff and you may as well benefit from it.

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