Simple Gifts

I suppose I should apologize for the awful relationship between the title and what I'm about to write about. Titles, particularly for blog posts should be functional and descriptive: google won't enjoy or take pleasure in your puns. Nevertheless...

I've been working on something of binge of blog posts to prevent this from happening again any time soon, and I've noticed something: my posts aren't nearly as epic as they used to be. Nothing that I have in my drafts folder is longer than 750 words, and most of the posts are under 650.

This probably calls for some sort of celebration.

I'm notoriously long-winded, and although I've been a really bad practitioner of "keep your blog posts short, concise, and clear," I really do think that there's a sweet spot for website-based content around around 600 words that's really easy to read and comprehend on a computer screen. Even if most of my posts are a bit over this mark.

So what gives? why have I finally been able to figure out how to say what I want to say in fewer words? Here are the current theories:

  • The writing I do for the day job is teaching me (slowly) to be a bit more concise.
  • My self imposed schedule is forcing me to be a bit more granular in the topics I choose to attack in a single blog post.
  • I'm getting to the point quicker. I don't feel like I'm spending as much time running around my arguments attempting to explain the premise.
  • I've become more of a textual stylist than I ever used to be before. While I don't think I'm a stunning prose stylist, I'm much more aware of how my paragraphs come together these days, and I think that leads to more clear prose.
  • I'm getting better at using unordered lists to organize information rather than as a rhetorical crutch. (Most reflexive bullet point ever.)

I've written about this before. I had a class in college, where the professor assigned these short (250 words,) "journal" entries that were due on a weekly basis. They didn't have a topic, and most people reflected on the readings. I reflected on my other classes and how they related to the topic of the class I was taking. Half way through my roomate (who was also in the class,) commented that I hadn't actually written about the readings for the class.

"The journal entries don't have topics. And I'm writing about the core material of the class," I said.

"You have to admit that it's a bit absurd," she said. [1] She was right.

I wrote the professor who was apparently fine with my eclectic interpretation of the assignment. The pieces were mostly technical exercises in being clear and concise, and she thought my entries were fine, if a bit esoteric. (I think the exact words were something along the lines of "delightful and widely synthetic.") And so I kept writing those kinds of pieces.

A year later I started really getting into blogging. The rest is history. When I first started at this, I enjoyed the freedom being able to write about whatever I wanted. Now I cherish the structure more than anything.

Its funny how things change, sometimes.

[1]Apologies to H.S. for the liberties I've taken with her words.
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