If you don’t recognize that quote,
you are dead to me you have some reading to do.
The Elements of Style. Strunk and White.
Legend has it my Grandfather would give a copy to every new associate at “the firm,” and make them prove they’d read it. If their writing didn’t reflect that they had, I’m sure they heard about it. Grandpa was a severe guy.
If you are of the millenial, 240 character ilk, then
the most you’ll take in is that quote up there should be enough. If you need a little more specificity, allow me to share the best blogging advice I have yet received: “800 words, max.”
I’ve written about wanting to give you, the blog reader, a reason to read. Even if I’m blathering about myself and my life and my, little erm,… issues, I mostly want it to be a good read for you.
I think of this blog as a type of what used to be called a “column.” In olden days, there were these things called “newspapers,” that had words printed in ink on paper (as opposed to pixels on a glowing screen) that got delivered to your front stoop (oh, please, you must know what a front stoop is? Chicago? New York? Anyone?) that you would pick up, take inside, and sit down in your comfy chair with your cup of homemade coffee (from an appliance known as a “percolator”) to read. Or to wait until your Dad had finished reading it, and then read it. At least the funnies. (OK, comics. They were in their own section of the paper, in color on Sundays, and were known as “comic strips,” because they were usually no more than 8 frames (pictures) of situation and punchline – some just one frame – as opposed to your coveted, collectable “comic books” or newer (AAAK!) “graphic novels.”)
In these things called newspapers were pieces written by writers like Erma Bombeck (I loved her) or Mike Royko, or even Bob Greene (whose tenure as a columnist didn’t end well) that would provide a little humor, or insight, or a reason for outrage, or an offbeat story not otherwise covered, usually in 800 words, max.
So I think of this blog as my own little independent “column.” (Newspapers had physical “columns” which also could be used to measure the length and width of a story appearing in them – “half a column” was a short report – two columns a longer piece with more detail. I’m not a journalist and never was trained as one. I’m sure it shows. I’m just an ex-newspaper reader who takes her news in pixels instead of pages. Waaah.)
But that “800 words” advice came to me from a real journalist.
Yesterday’s post, “Humble, or Humble Pie?” started out at more than 1200 words. I worked on that sucker for three hours to get it down to 800 words and still convey what I wanted it to say.
The late actor Jack Lemmon famously told a story (and told it and told it and told it) about how director George Cukor coached his performance on film by doing take after take, each time saying, “Less, Jack, less, a little less.”
“Less is more,” right?
File this one under “unsolicited advice,” but no matter how interested I am in you or your blog post, I just can’t read it if it goes a long way over 800 words. I wouldn’t expect you to read mine if I carried on much past that. I’ve gone back and revised old posts to shorten them up for that reason.
Longer stuff is for longer reads, like books. Actual physical books, which, mercifully, have not been done in by pixels. Yay. Long live the heft and feel of a hardback, and the delicious, musty, book-y smell of a library filled with them. Rah.
“What do you read, my lord?”
“Words, words, words.”
Can’t get enough of them, and even enough of them are often not enough, I know, Hamlet, baby.
But for blogs (or “columns”), I’ll take them 800 at a time.
Or less, less.
Here endeth the lesson.
Coming in at 693 words, I remain,
Your long-winded but working on it,