How long should a piece of writing be? As long as the words count, I don’t care how many of them I write. But if a word doesn’t matter, I cut it. This means I generally write shorter than many of my peers; fortunately I don’t get paid by the word.
Twitter has done the world a favor with its 140-character limit. It’s forced us all to write leaner, more concentrated prose, to make words count. In a world where Walmart alone generates 1 Terabyte of new data every day,* every byte we can eliminate should qualify as a public service.
Counting words, musical edition
I tolerate “flabby” writing in only one area: Art. If you’re not familiar with this song about writing from the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, do yourself a favor and press play.
*I heard the Walmart stat at a conference recently; I can’t find anything to back it up exactly. But this article talks about how much data Walmart collects. That’s not the same as generating new data, but it’s an even scarier amount:
“Walmart collects 2.5 petabytes of information from 1 million customers every hour. One petabyte is equivalent to 20 million filing cabinets worth of text – about 167 times the number of books in America’s Library of Congress. Every. Hour.”
If that isn’t enough to get you to eliminate unnecessary words, I don’t know what will.