April 9, 2015

Saying More with Less

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine     

I recently spoke with a friend that is a writer and managing editor of a magazine. The conversation soon turned to current day styles of writing including shorter, more condensed versions like blogs. My friend writes articles and blogs for the magazine. She finds that material is plentiful, which is a blessing, but you can get it all on the page. After three hours of a great interview she must condense some things to 500 words. Articles must be reduced to 1200 words.  It can be a chore. How do you do this?

In our writing classes we challenge each other to write nonstop for 5 minutes. With a topic in mind we set the timer and begin. At the end of the 5 minutes we look over our work, count the words and challenge ourselves to reduce our word count by half. As impossible as it appears to be, you will be surprised how easy it is to do.

We are a wordy bunch, especially in the South. We can say something with 100 words when 30 would do. We speak with flowery detail on each subject. It is beautiful and comforting to me because I am from the South but it isn’t needed for the rapid fire, interest holding, quick read crowds of today. It is great for a lingering novel to read at leisure but that’s another style altogether. Today we want to know the topic, the message and the punch line but we want it in 500-1200 words or less.

Writing like this is not only a style but an art. It is a great way to enter the world of writing. As a matter of fact I have recommended to writers to start a blog. Keep it within 300 to 500 words and fill it with interesting topics, phrases and bottom lines. Perfecting this, which I am trying to do, can make you think and become more aware of what can be said with less.

I challenge you to do the same exercise we do in writing class. Give yourself 5 minutes of breakneck speed writing. Don’t think just write. Once you have finished go back and count your words then reduce the word count by half.  You will amaze yourself at how easy it is to do and how much better it reads.

Give it a try and let me know of your success.    


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