The discipline of brevity…

“If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.” 

–David Belasco

During the past year I have been helping to write several travel guides for a publisher.  One of the guidelines from the Editor is that no single review can be longer than 60 words due to the constraints of the page design.

It was a challenge to distil pages of research notes into the allotted 60 words.  However, it was clear that if I didn’t work to the format, then the Editor or the Art Director would get out a meat cleaver and do the job for me.

It was slow going at first; it always takes longer to say less.  But after struggling along for a few days I had an epiphany — I stopped counting words and started making every word count.

For me this meant using the research to discover the one thing that was unique about what I was reviewing and crafting the review around it.  Once I had discovered the core, writing the rest of the review was a pleasure. 

As a writer I learned to appreciate anew the discipline of brevity.  And economy in communication has never been more important than it is today.  We suffer from too much information coming at us from every direction. 

I read recently that we are exposed to as much information in one year as our Grandparents were in their entire lifetime.  It is nearly impossible to keep up with the flow, we just don’t have time.

To successfully communicate in the 21st century means saying more with less.

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