Monday, March 30, 2015

You can say a lot in only 100 words (6)

Last week I showed you a 76-word blog post from Seth Godin, an author and entrepreneur who turns out concise blog posts using only 100 words, more or less.

Another writer who does a lot with 100 words is the retired prison doctor and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple. In an article titled “This Can’t Last,” Mr. Dalrymple discusses signs of societal decline; his second paragraph is:
“A story is told by the British writer Christopher Booker in his account of the Moscow Olympics of 1980. A sports journalist of one of Britain’s less cerebral newspapers, than which no newspapers in the world are less cerebral, took one look around the Moscow airport on arrival, never having given the matter a moment’s thought before, and said something to the effect that ‘This system can’t last.’ This was not the opinion of almost all the learned Sovietologists of the day; but he had grasped in a matter of seconds a reality that they had not perceived in many years of close and devoted study.” (106 words)
Trusting that his readers know that the Soviet Union was dissolved a decade later, Mr. Dalrymple continues, turning his attention to his native Britain:
“Tiny details can, in my opinion, be very revealing of a society, as are those on a scan to a skilled radiologist. Here is one such, to which I referred recently in a public lecture. I had noticed on the website of the Guardian, Britain’s liberal newspaper, the self-description of a young woman, calling herself curlygirl24, who was looking for ‘soulmate’ (the name of the Guardian’s lonelyhearts service, though most readers of the paper would probably be horrified at the notion of a soul).” (84 words)
He quotes the young woman, in part:
“I have been told that I am a bit of a paradox: I seem to have the emotional fuzziness that comes with being a girl along with the capacity to drink copious amounts, still stand up and take the p*ss out of my friends and possibly random strangers.”
He comments:
“I said in my lecture that it seemed to me remarkable, and not altogether reassuring, that an educated young woman, a financial journalist according to her own report, who was on the lookout for, presumably, an equally educated young man, a member of our society’s intellectual and social elite, should think that drinking to excess and then being impolite to complete strangers would be an attractive quality. What did this tell us about our society, of its cultural level? I left it at that.” (84 words)
His article continues. It is worth reading in full.

The Takeaway: If you want to make your writing more concise, keep reading writers who are good at writing concisely. To see the earlier pieces in this series, search on “Mr. Clarity” and “You can say a lot in only 100 words.” For even more examples of good concision, search on “Mr. Clarity” and “Concise writing is usually clear writing.” My best wishes to you.

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