Home > Agile, planning > You could have written less

You could have written less

I often hear the comment that I’m "energetic". I’m on the run most of the time and is eager to get going. Sitting still is not my cup of tea. As you might have noticed, I don’t have any problems writing lot of stuff on a regular basis. I love writing, but I have a huge problem. Myself, I’m pretty bad at reading long texts with a low concentration of content. What do I mean with that?

Well, if you read a text, you can see that some of the stuff isn’t really needed to get the message through. You repeat stuff, use many examples which does not add unique angles, etc. A text with lot of filling like that is what I call a text with low concentration of content. You know the type. When you read it you read something like: blah blah blah [content] blah blah blah [content] blah blah blah [content].

I wasn’t aware of this before I became active in the National Student Union in Sweden. We sat at a board meeting and one of the members wanted to delete half of the stuff in a program. I asked her why, because she didn’t disagree on the actual content. Well, she thought that the extra text didn’t add any value to the whole text so it should be deleted. And that is a hard task: be brave and delete the stuff which might sound nice but really does not make the reader understand the stuff better. It is said that repetition is key in education but we all know that it’s not true in texts. You don’t understand "cycling is fun" better if you write " cycling is fun cycling is a fun sport cycling is really funny". You only get confused and bored. So, cut the crap. Mark Twain realized this and wrote in a famous letter:
"I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead"

So, I’ve spent my career trying to write just enough text, you could say lean writing. But now I’m back to school and one of the teachers wrote:
"You’ve answered the question but you could have written more."

I responded (I guess I’m not the favorite student, questioning everything):
"Did I answer the question correctly? If I did, would the answer be more correct if I’d written more?"

The response was:
"Yes, you answered the question, but you could have elaborated more"

Yes, I could have, but what would be the use and what would that have proved? This culture of creating all these low content concentration text mean a lot of costs during creation, reading and don’t forget all the misunderstandings which are an effect of people like me skimming through the text because I just cannot keep myself concentrated long enough to spot the important stuff.

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