The Frugal Writer

Why use several words when one will do?

At some points in time, people engaged in the profession of journalism tend to learn to acquire the negatively associative behavior of bringing into use multiples of individual kinds of expressive compositional terms in the execution of their quotidian duties.

In other words, sometimes journalists are wordy.

Using too many words may be justifiable when journalists are paid by the word. It’s understandable that someone paid a nickel a word would write “the house, which was located at 315 Oak St.” and get forty-five cents instead of writing “the house, at 315 Oak St.,” for a mere thirty cents.

But readers have precious little time these days, and sometimes precious little attention. Even if you’re paid by the word, you’re better off using shorter and more concise writing, allowing you to pack more information and less repetition into your articles. Sometimes, of course, you want to use more words, for effect or to set a tone. But most of the time, it’s just a bad habit.

So here’s a primer on saving a few words, or making a few words clearer. Pay yourself the nickel for every word you save, and buy yourself something nice.

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Merrill Perlman managed copy desks across the newsroom at The New York Times, where she worked for 25 years. Follow her on Twitter at @meperl. Tags: , ,