SAYING WHAT YOU MEAN OR PRODUCTIVITY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Productive

Yesterday was a productive day. I decided to write about the kind of writing I do which I guess would be considered “opinion” or “informational.”  Judy (in New Hampshire Judy as opposed to Mexican Judy) commented that I write editorials, which was startling news to me. It fits, but I never thought of it that way.

Overall, I write to convey information. I try to avoid writing merely to display how well I write. I try to avoid confusing readers. Lately, I’ve noticed most of the information I read online seems to create more confusion than clarification. It’s not that the authors aren’t trying. It’s just they’re weak on editing.

Just when you think they’ve given you the major points, the author jumps to an alternative explanation completely at odds with what he said.

I used to do this on term papers in school. I said what I needed to say in the first few pages. The rest was filler. They demanded 40 pages and I had maybe five pages of worthwhile material. I think technical writing was comfortable for me because I could write without filler.

Too many writers are wedded to filler and proving how well they write. Most of the time, it is not useful to read more than the first few paragraphs because everything you need to know is in the first few paragraphs. That’s where you get the who, what, when, where and how of the story. After that, information diminishes as the author speculates on other ways you could look at the same data, and apparently, feels obliged to name all the other authors and give clips of their opinions.

Why? If you aren’t clarifying your post, what’s the point?

To make posts even more anti-informative, authors feel obliged to offer alternative interpretations of the material. At the risk of failing to appreciate opposing opinions, not all alternative opinions prove your point or for that matter, have anything to do with your post.

If you thought you had a grip on the subject, by the time you get past 1000 words, you know much less.

This is not the way it’s supposed to work. Additional information should expand and clarify. It should give you some precise information and backup data. It should not be there to fill extra space.

well-stressed-4It’s why I suggest writers edit, edit, edit edit. Then, put the draft away. Look at it later. A day or two later, if it isn’t urgent, but at least for a couple of hours. Not only does it help you find those slithering typographical errors you usually miss, but it enables you to see if you have managed to stick to your original concept.

This assumes you had a concept and weren’t just writing off the hip. If it’s not a rant, data should support your story and you should have backups to your supporting evidence.

Sometimes I feel as if a dozen voices are ricocheting around my head. I find myself thinking about the subject, then thinking about everything else I’ve heard about it. Then I see if it fits into my discussion or distracts attention away from the subject

What was the main subject anyway?. Where were you going? Are you getting there?

Yesterday I took this post which ran a whopping 1500-words. It felt disjointed. I let it rest overnight. When I got back to it, it ended satisfactorily at around 650 words. It said everything I needed to say. The rest had been repetitive. Irrelevant.

How much does my reader need to know? How much should I be explaining? If that paragraph is elegant and beautifully phrased, does it serve a purpose other than decoration?

dilbert information overload

When you get serious about editing, adjectives will vanish. Adverbs will run for the hills.

If this doesn’t work, try your hand at fiction. You can meander in fiction and, best of all, you can use adjectives and subjunctive clauses — and it’s okay. Pity I have no talent for it!



Categories: #FOWC, Daily Prompt, Editing, Fandango's One Word Challenge, Humor, Marilyn Armstrong, Relationships, Writing

Tags: , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Sorry for the other comment about stuff in the fridge – I’ve put it to the wrong article – don’t know why!!!!

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  2. Just read this:
    Raymond Chandler said: “The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of, to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off.”

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  3. Just back home – knowing that opening my fridge wasn’t going to be a pleasant starter! I had to rush out of the house to take the train to Paris and left my lovingly prepared ‘Birchermuesli’, a portion of coleslaw, a mix of water and grapefruit juice and some salami….. But I HAD to open the fridge, didn’t I, now that I returned after 10 days – – – a slight cleaning would not go amiss!

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    • I try to dump anything likely to go really bad before I go away. But there’s always something in the back of the fridge that one forgot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m usually very good – I hate to see food getting spoiled. But in that particular case, I was so late all of a sudden that I had to run off to catch my train (which I missed by the fraction of a second anyway – but I caught my TGV ((high speed train)) which was the most important thing. It’s all put away now and the fridge smells fresh again! 😉

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  4. About the only productive thing I did yesterday was to clean the refrigerator.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gotta love Dilbert. I am a woman of few words. My supervisor is the opposite. Emails from her: she states something. She states it again. She explains it (just in case you missed the first statement). And then the topper: she uses the word ‘additionally’ as many times as she can. At this point, I hit ‘delete.’ I can’t take it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, that’s how I feel about a lot of posts. I try to read them, but I actually fall asleep before I get to the end. not a good sign.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That was the format I was told was appropriate for “academic” material. State your premise. Then give a short summary of your premise. Then give a single (or shorter) additional summary (lest someone missed the previous couple … then sum up the entire discussion with a FINAL summary — in case someone is still reading the message which most people are not.

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