Vigorous Writing

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary
words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that
a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no
unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his
sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects
only in outline, but that every word tell.
E.B. White

Make “every word tell” — this wonderful nugget of advice is from the
classic handbook, The Elements of Style, a writing guide always worth
revisiting. I came across this passage in an article called “Keep It
Short” by Daniel Heitman, a journalist. Daniel notes that E.B. White,
widely admired as an essayist, achieved his spare but sprightly prose
only by vigorously paring his words: “Although White’s gift for saying
much in a few words looked effortless, he often achieved his pith by
distilling one draft after another to its elegant essence.”

Over the years, inspired by E.B. White and others, Daniel has honed
his own revising skills and offered some helpful tips:

Each word must pull its weight: “Refining a draft is a process of
elimination that, like any contest advancing the survival of the
fittest, tends to dramatize what’s left standing when the competition
is complete. Like passengers in a lifeboat, all the words in a concise
text must pull their own weight. That’s why good poetry, which places
a premium on brevity, stakes such a claim on a reader’s attention.”

Cut with care: “I frequently hear champions of brevity advising
writers to cut their word counts by scratching all the adjectives or
adverbs.” But, Daniel warns, the goal of brevity isn’t to slice a
certain type of word out of your text, but to be sure that each word
you use really matters.

Strike a balance: “…brevity, whatever its virtues, must be balanced
against a multitude of other needs in composition. If extreme brevity
were the only goal of writing, after all, we wouldn’t have Moby-Dick
or Anna Karenina. Not every piece of writing requires a Spartan word
limit.”

Wise words for us all as we craft our prose and write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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