The Importance Of Being Like Ernest


William Faulkner, overly fond of overly long sentences, or Ernest Hemingway: which novelist would thrive in today’s Twitter-y 140-character-or-less, attention-span-challenged world?

Hemingway. No doubt. Mr. Brevity himself.

Besides having a realistic view of how much time your audience will devote to any given subject-word-predicate combination, “writing tight” helps aid comprehension. (At 23 words, that last sentence was pushing the limit, for example.)

If someone knows what the heck you are actually saying, then there’s an exponentially greater chance they will take the action that you are, directly or indirectly, recommending they take. A pretty notable trait, that, for marketers and publicists, among others.

These ruminations flow after I just read a Los Angeles publicist’s bio. His 43-word opening sentence spans so much tundra that by the time I reached the period, I had forgotten the stuff that came before the first of his seven (no kidding!) commas.

And it’s hardly an aberration. Two sentences later, he lays a 42-word whopper on readers.

Now, that’s how he crafts his bio, which (you would think) would prompt some painstaking attention on his part. How clearly and cogently do you suspect he is conveying his clients’ stories?

(Of course, I checked out my website to see if I’m practicing what I’m preaching. On a per-sentence basis, the greeting page checks in at 19 words, my company profile at 20 words, and my bio at a relatively long-winded 28 words. Hmm, the prose behind that last stat is something to examine for my next site update. )

Make no mistake: effective storytelling is not about merely hewing to an oppressive word-count limit. Bathroom-wall scribblings tend to be brief, but that doesn’t mean they are worthy of anything other than a good scrubbing.

Next time you come across a powerfully told story, though, pay heed to the rhythm and flow. Amid the longer sentences, I would predict, are a liberal sprinkling of quick bursts of thought that pack a hefty punch.

One thought on “The Importance Of Being Like Ernest

  1. Matt…loved your lesson on “writing tight.” Excellent tips wrapped in fun reading.

    Thanks to you…better writing ahead for me! (21!)

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