The art of being concise, or not

I just thought I’d post this little update as I’m currently about half way through a 6000 word minimum illustrated report on the work I’m doing for university.

I think I’m a pretty concise person. When I write anything I usually try to get to the point pretty quickly, and don’t like to spin anything out too long unless it’s funny or there’s a payoff at the end. I have to say, there’s only so much ‘padding’ you can add to a description of what I’m doing and why. Most of the descriptions I write about my work are those that I’ve taken the time to explain in 100 words or less, thereby being concise and to the point.

I’m not going to say ‘bullshitting’, but ‘padding’ a report, is hard work. Nobody wants to read anything unnecesary in a report document, but 6000 words minimum is 6000 words minimum.

5 Comments

  1. Comment Details
    Authored by Jasper
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Comment Permalink

    I’ve always looked at word minimums as a guide line. I always give myself a margin of, say, 10 percent. A minimum number of words says something about the amount of detail wanted in the report. And than its just a case of how compact a writer you are.

    Some people can give you all the details of a topic in just 300 words, while it might take another person 500 to do the same. I don’t think one of these is better, just because of their length, therefor a “minimum” number of words is always a tricky method to measure a texts quality.

    Obviously I’m in the group that always needs a lot more than the minimum amount of words;)

  2. Comment Details
    Authored by Dave
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 7:10 pm | Comment Permalink

    Well said.

    One thing that’s sticking in the back of my mind though is that I’ve already written a dissertation. Only one report is counted towards the final degree, so one of them is redundant. ;/

  3. Comment Details
    Authored by Jeff
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 9:30 pm | Comment Permalink

    I look at it this way: When I’m told to write 6,000 words (I’ve been a writer for more than 30 years), I’m expected to do a lot of research! The end product will be a very condensed distillation of all that research into a combination of facts, assertions and conclusions. No padding at all.
    The number of words is irrelevant, really, except it gives you some indication whether the writer is willing to take the subject seriously or simply wants to show he/she can write.
    From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll:
    “Begin at the beginning,” the king said gravely, “and go on ‘til you come to the end. Then stop.”

  4. Comment Details
    Authored by Dave
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 1:23 am | Comment Permalink

    Point well made Jeff.

    I’m just not used to being overly descriptive. I rather like to tell someone what something is doing, but let them make their own mind up as to why it’s doing it. Meaning is different for everyone, and I usually let people make their own mind up first, before possibly influencing someone with mine.

  5. Comment Details
    Authored by Harry Roberts
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:23 pm | Comment Permalink

    I’m the other way really. I tend to pad out what I’m saying way too much. I’ll usually reach my word limit 50% of my way through a project, which is a real pain.

    I think my biggest problem is that I can’t *see* something working the same with less words, whereas other people can strip out a fifth of the words and it will still make sense - if you get what I mean… I don’t think this makes sense…

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