Renee Ballard

Get to the point

A couple of years ago I saw an ophthalmologist who was completely charming and also moonlighted as an opera singer. During the consult, while I was being mildly hypnotised by his baritone voice, he told me how he loved the brevity Gen Y and Millennials brought to his consults. He compared how his older patients (60ish plus) could write up to a two page note before getting to their question, compared with one of his younger patients who once sent him a text that said ‘Cured. Continue drops?’! He remarked that there was probably a balance to be had somewhere in between, but he was inspired to rethink his prose too.

I’m noticing a lot lately that people are getting pretty wordy when it comes to Facebook and Instagram. Like crazy wordy. Small essay wordy. I don’t know what it is (probably undiagnosed ADHD) but when I see a volume of text on a Facebook post or Instagram pic, my eyes instantly glaze over and I swiftly keep scrolling. Even though the content might be great, even if I love these people or companies and normally read all their posts, when it comes to grand stories told in multiple paragraphs on a feed, I am out of there.

It’s not because I don’t like what they’re selling or saying, it’s because of the mindset I’m in when I’m on social media. Mostly I’m looking to be lightly distracted from whatever it is I’m meant to be doing and to be entertained dur ing the process. Which I could well be IF the long post is a goodie. But history and experience have taught me this is rarely the case. It’s not that the gist of the story isn’t worth reading about, it’s the abundance of words the author has added to tell it that is off-putting.

Twitter cottoned on to this from the beginning and limited us to 140 characters and I’m still grateful. Every tweet I send sees me having to cull about half of what I initially type, but I’ll be damned if my writing isn’t better because of it.

I can’t help but wonder being word-heavy is a hangover from our school days? Remember when essays had word counts, and to make it, every ‘don’t’ was extended to ‘do not’, and a whole lot of henceforth, alas, herewith and howevers were added?!

Getting to the point succinctly is a discipline. It’s way too easy to write a steady stream of consciousness than it is to go back, edit, cut, rewrite and cull your story. But if you master it, then the rewards are great, because if people are prepared to read a small essay in their feed, then they’re sure as hell going to read a story that’s distilled to it’s concentrated essence.

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