Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Keep it short

Yesterday’s blog post was my shortest yet, a mere 72 words. Being that it was a tribute to my husband, I tried to keep it brief. He always says my best posts are the short ones.

Out of courtesy to readers, I try to keep my daily posts under 400 words in length. Sometimes a story takes more words to tell, while commentary can—and should—take fewer.

Packing more narrative into a smaller package is a challenge. It’s also what makes it fun. Often I begin by laying the raw content out on a slab. Later I go back and tidy things up. Think of a trash compactor – raw materials are deposited and fill up the bin quickly, but later become compacted into a dense package taking up less space. That’s how I look at writing.

Someone once said, “If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Try looking that one up. Variations have been attributed to Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Benjamin Franklin, Blaise Pascal, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Lord Chesterfield, Samuel Johnson, Voltaire, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre and George Bernard Shaw, among others.  If even 10 of these good fellows are posers, it just shows how valid a notion it is.

I’d like to become better at keeping it brief. These writers are correct – it does take more time. Anyone can ramble on. Just tiptoe through the blogosphere and you’ll see for yourself. Writers are ever challenged to scour our text for extraneous words and phrases, and eliminate or replace them with more potent substitutes.

Educators in Virginia recently took heat for having students use Twitter for some of their assignments. I thought it was a novel idea. Having kids keep their writing to fewer than 140 characters is an exercise in brevity. Yes, one day they’ll be writing 10-page term papers, and didn’t we all perfect the art of filling blue books and typing paper with loquacious ramblings and flowery phrases?

The test is the ability to serve up meaty content in as manageable a container as even the most attention-challenged reader will digest and, perhaps more important, to know when to stop.

Yesterday, one of my favorite groups, “Fake AP Stylebook,” suggested: “Running out of space? Just end abruptly with, “Only time will tell if this development resolves the issue.”

(388 words)

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Forefather festivities

Today Americans are observing Presidents’ Day. How will you celebrate?

I cannot tell a lie. I baked a cherry pie last night. Whether or not the father of our country ever cut down a cherry tree and owned up to it isn’t really known, but it served as a good lesson for school children about the importance of telling the truth. And a darn good excuse to make cherry pie.

I imagine tours of the nation’s Presidential libraries are full today, and there are events going on here in the nation’s capital to mark the holiday.

A Facebook friend put out an invitation for favorite presidential quotes.

The Huffington Post posted 22 Ridiculous things You Didn’t Know About U.S. Presidents and The 10 Funniest Presidential Impressions.

Morning news programs ran interesting pieces about presidents, including one on the discovery of a collection of books belonging to Thomas Jefferson.

One might say that presidents, dead and alive, are doing their part to stimulate the U.S. economy. Clearance sales of everything from mattress sets to Jeep Grand Cherokees are happening all across our proud land.

Suddenly I have an urge make a rudimentary cherry tree out of red, green and brown construction paper and have cherry pie for breakfast.

Happy Presidents’ Day. Now express your patriotism and go buy a mattress.

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