Last month, my neighbors invited me to a party at a “paint bar.” It’s a brilliant concept: Combine friends with a mini painting lesson, snacks and alcoholic beverages, and voila! Everyone is a budding artist for a night. We would all paint a wintery version of Boston’s iconic Make Way for Ducklings statues, based on Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s book.
Having never painted so much as a fence, the idea was thrilling … and terrifying.
What if my ducks looked like something that crawled from the sewer, rather than a family of cute yellow quackers? What if my painting was the lamest one in the class? What if? What IF?
Whoever said “If I had more time, I would have written less…” stuck a red pen through the hearts of writers for generations to come. So many words, so little time — and space!
Variations of the quote have been connected to John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau and Mark Twain. The original, though, is thought to have been written by French mathematician/philosopher Blaise Pascal in a letter in 1657. Translated from French, it read:
“I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”*
Any writer who’s bumped up against a word count limit understands Pascal’s pain. But Pascal couldn’t imagine the challenges of today’s digital writers (nor that a computer programming language would be named after him in the late 1960s — but no room for that here).
Today’s writers must craft tight copy for webpages being viewed by people on smartphones. We’re communicating via brief Facebook updates and 140-character Tweets. Web articles must be chunked out for easy scanning across multiple pages. Case studies, white papers, appeal letters, essays — everything we write must be tight, to the point and persuasive. Continue reading →