Wordiness is a dead give-away of the beginning writer, except when an expert wordsmith intentionally exercises extreme verbosity. (Some writers call this Faulknerian style.) Long-winded writing is usually regarded as somewhat sophomoric. Remember writing high school essays and padding paragraphs to fill the required word counts?
Here’s an example:
Today is a very special day of the week. This weekly occasion, which comes after a full five regular workdays and before the blessed weekend day known as the first of the following week, presents me with an opportunity to rise later than usual from the furniture on which I tend to recline and slumber overnight.
Why not simply say it this way?
Today is Saturday, and I’m sleeping in.
Wordiness is not wordsmithing.
Sure, an author might allow a character to talk thusly in a story, as a means of painting that person’s personality. And long descriptions may add color and clarity to a story. It’s not the sheer volume of words that matters, as much as the economy of usage.
Rambling redundancy rubs readers the wrong way.
We may slip into circuitous speech. Our personal editing skills seem to slip in everyday conversation. In written works, this usually indicates inexperience.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American Transcendentalist writer and philosopher, had a little to say about this idea, as it pertains to storytelling:
“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”
Author of Walden, Civil Disobedience, and tons of essays, Henry David Thoreau likely knew that firsthand.
It’s tough to write tight copy.
The writer has to possess a firm grip of the facts to communicate tersely and directly. Circuitous descriptions and explanations frequently aim at concealing informational gaps.
Where do writers find the most telling and compelling stories? How about real life, as Thoreau pointed out in this pointed statement?
“How vain it is to sit down to write, when you have not stood up to live.”
Perhaps the most famous Henry David Thoreau quotation of all is this one, which may pertain most poignantly to aspiring writers:
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
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