Thursday, February 5, 2015

You can say a lot in only 100 words (3)

If you write concisely, you can say a lot in only 100 words or so. Needless to say, you need intelligence, discipline and the courage of your convictions. Here are three examples, ranging from 120 words to 245 words:

Paul Craig Roberts: 120 words about US foreign policy

Putting aside their brainwashing, their defensiveness and patriotic support of the regime in Washington, Americans need to ask themselves: How is it possible that the government of the United States, an alleged Superpower, is so unaware of its true vulnerabilities that Washington is capable of pushing two real powers [Russia and China] until they have had enough and play the cards that they hold?
Americans need to understand that the only thing exceptional about the US is the ignorance of the population and the stupidity of the government.
What other country would let a handful of Wall Street crooks control its economic and foreign policy, run its central bank and Treasury, and subordinate citizens’ interests to the interests of the one percent’s pocketbook? (Source)

Theodore Dalrymple: 184 words about Peshawar

We experienced no hostility toward us; on the contrary. Perhaps, being so young, we were callow or na├»ve enough not to recognize hostility when we encountered it. My letters home at the time make it clear to me now that I was not then an acute observer or, if I was, had no descriptive powers. What appeared to concern me mostly was my own comfort rather than the world about me: the past is not only another country where they do things differently, but also where one was oneself a different person. When I read my letters of that time, I feel as if I have no connection to, or even sympathy for, the writer of them (though my handwriting has not changed in the meantime). I understand the impulse of many people to burn the letters of the past. One day, those who are now young will hope that the electronic messages of their youth will suffer the degradation of entropy and go the way of all flesh, for there is nothing more to be feared than the perfect record of a life. (Source)

Lysander Spooner (pictured): 245 words about the US Constitution

The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now [1870] existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. And the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them. They had no natural power or right to make it obligatory upon their children. It is not only plainly impossible, in the nature of things, that they could bind their posterity, but they did not even attempt to bind them. That is to say, the instrument does not purport to be an agreement between any body but the people then existing; nor does it, either expressly or impliedly, assert any right, power, or disposition, on their part, to bind anybody but themselves. (Source)

The Takeaway: When we write concisely and don’t waste words on circumlocutions, equivocations, evasions or tangents, we can say a lot in 100 words or so. One technique for writing concisely is to deliberately write an overlong first draft and then keep reducing it. For example, to write a 2000-word article, I typically write a 3000-word first draft. In successive drafts, I cut 500 words, 300 words, 150 words, and 50 words, leaving a concise, 2000-word fifth draft that connects like a sledge hammer. This technique is quicker and easier than it sounds. Try it.

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