The first thing you learn as a journalism student is to write ledes. Good ones. Then, you learn to cut out the crap. By crap, I mean the useless words that drag down your stories, making them heavier and tougher to digest than the lean, mean, fighting machines. The articles that give your readers information and then let them move on with their day.
I admire the pieces that can pack a punch. Even news doesn’t always do this well.
Kurt Vonnegut briefly worked for Sports Illustrated. He was assigned a piece about a racehorse who jumped a fence and ran away. The editor wanted the details. The reaction. Vonnegut is famously quoted for writing this as the story: “The horse jumped over the fucking fence.” He quit that job.
I frequently struggle with the power of concision.
What is too much? What is too little? I tend to side with Vonnegut. Less is more. Do you want the story, or do you want the neighborhood gossip?
As the writer, I think:
how can I tell this story in fewer words?
have I given enough context?
did I paint the pretty picture? does anyone want the pretty picture? or do they want 140 characters?
In the end, you have to write within your context. Are you writing professionally? Write the way you’re told to. Personally, I’ve never received a piece of feedback that hasn’t made my writing better. You’re writing for the reader, after all. Remember, stories are powerful.
In all cases, cut out the crap.
I’ll leave you with a few quotes about the power of concision: