Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The 140 Character Universe

Sometimes there are just too many words. 

Yes, that was me who wrote that. A writer at her core. A person who needs words. Lots of them to express herself in the way in which she wants.

But sometimes less is more. Scratch that. When it comes to words, less is always more. 

Writers are taught to clean it up and to show me, don't tell me. It's ingrained in the head of a writer. The little bird sitting on your shoulder - asking - is that word REALLY necessary? 

Of course, today everyone is writing. If not the great American novel, chances are somewhere in the course of an average day a line or two is posted on Facebook, a Tweet is sent to your tribe, a shout out on Google+ or perhaps a cute little hook on Instagram. At the minimum you've sent at least one email or text message.

If someone has not told you about the less is more concept, you might not make your point.

-You might try a blog post that runs the length of one of those articles in Vanity Fair, which is great for a juicy magazine article, but considered a ramble for a blog that should run between 350-750 words.

-You might respond to someone else's blog post in 410 words with no beginning, middle or end that leaves the reader wondering what your point was and longing for the excess time that you seem to have.

-You might never get a retweet because the original tweet was just too long and there was nowhere to cut it down.

-That email you wrote to pitch a new client never got read because the reason for the note was buried somewhere in the fourth paragraph.

-The text you sent was so long it came in three sections which explains why your boyfriend still doesn't understand why you're mad. He never read it.

If your intention is being heard - or in this case read - get to your point. Keep it concise. Don't make us wonder what your point really is. In a world where our attention span has shriveled to that of a goldfish, there just isn't time to go wasting a lot of words.

Twitter forces the practice. For better or for worse. On the one hand it is a challenge to get to the point in just 140 characters (120 if you'd like your message retweeted). On the other hand, it forces us to get clear on what we want to say. 

But even if you're not tweeting, the point of all this technology is to connect. The 140 character message won't always work, but it's a good barometer - especially if you want to make your point. 

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