So I mentioned yesterday that I would be doing something for the writers at Sequart. Before you is the first part of a multipart series on non-fiction writing.
Consider any news article you read. My first reaction is how short they are. I remember writing an op-ed for one of the many campus newspapers at UCSB and my limit was set at 800 words. That’s not a lot of words when you think about it. On Sequart we are analyzing comics and have to break down some pretty large concepts in as few words as possible. Right now, my official limit is 1000 words for op-ed, 1500 for medium sized pieces (character driven articles, reviews, etc), and 2500 words for the really intense articles that do heavy analysis on works, people, or events in the comic book community. Use your space wisely. That’s the big idea.
Striking a balance between accessible vocabulary and the high-brow, uppity college diction helps condense pieces while not sounding overtly pretentious. Consider the following sentence:
I remember writing an op-ed for one of the many campus newspapers at UCSB and my limit was set at 800 words.
That was one of my above sentences. I’m going to see if I can condense it. Here are some examples.
Professional: I had only 800 words once to rend asunder an unwitting college student.
Low Brow: 800 words or less is pretty shitty.
Concise: I recall penning an op-ed in which I was required to meet the 800 word limit.
Each style actually works, even the low brow approach. It all depends on how your words advance the thoughts being developed in the piece.
If you want to practice lowering your word count, but still getting your point across, just do what I did in the above example. Choose sentences from your articles at random so that you have to use your critical thinking. A shorter, more concise piece will always have power. Abuse this power! It will help your writing come across with greater conviction as well.