Welcome, one and all! I am Steven Christopher McKnight, playwright, satirist, part-time Adam Driver lookalike, owner of fabulous hair, et cetera, and I shall be the one drilling pointless words into your head this evening. Our topic tonight, of course, is the importance of brevity whilst writing.
What is brevity, you may ask? Well, that is a very interesting question, a question very easily answered by an author’s best friend, the Oxford Dictionary. The Oxford dictionary defines “brevity” as, and I quote this exactly, “Concise and exact use of words in writing or speech.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary, an author’s other best friend (who gets jealous sometimes of the author’s stronger affinity for the much classier Oxford dictionary), defines brevity slightly differently, stating, word-for-word, “The use of few words to say something.” Incidentally, Merriam-Webster’s definition of brevity is slightly more brief that Oxford’s. Dictionaries are wonderful things.
Nonetheless, we could all stand to gain something by acquiring a sense of brevity in our writing. More often than not, and I mean way more often, I have seen authors who have rambled on and on ad infinitum just to express some silly point like “X is a useless letter of the alphabet” or “this word is important for some stupid reason.” Then the author tries to justify his or her ramble or just says, “Whoops, sorry for rambling,” as though this anecdote wasn’t 90 percent a waste of time. I mean, you aren’t Charles Dickens. You aren’t being paid by the word here. Heck, most of the time, you aren’t even being paid.
Anyway, these rambles can be completely avoided by following a few easy steps. For starters, it’s always important to write with a distinct purpose, knowing how you’re going to achieve that purpose. It isn’t enough just to say, “This is important because, yeah, whatever, and this, and that, and, um, yep.” That doesn’t sound good at all, does it? It’s choppy. It rambles. It’s much better to write in a more organized manner. “This is important because this, that, and the other thing.” See? Wasn’t that much more brief? It was, wasn’t it? If you agree with me, I agree with you. It’s like storing blankets. Sure, you can shove them all in the dresser willy-nilly, or you can fold them nicely into your blanket chest. Or maybe you don’t have a blanket chest. So you fold them and fit them nicely on a shelf inside the closet, or you put them inside of those Ziploc bags with the vacuums and stuff. You catch my drift? You can fit so much more into something if you’re organized about it.
OK, now you’re organized. That’s great. That’s wonderful. You’ve done a wonderful job. Now you’re ready for the second step. This step is just as important as the first. This step, of course, is to get right to the point. Cut out any and all unnecessary wording. This definitely applies to anything even mildly redundant. Redundancy is brevity’s worst enemy. Allow me to rephrase that. The relationship between redundancy and brevity is one of the most adversarial relationships of all personified writing terms. Redundancy is a big no-no. Always avoid redundancy all the time. In addition to redundancy, which, I cannot stress enough, is one of the worst of all literary sins, repeating yourself constantly is also a crime punishable by intense criticism within the literary world. Ideas are meant to be stated once, then promptly supported by evidence, not driven into your skull.
So now we’ve gone over two amazing points. I cannot stress enough how brilliantly thought-out those points were. To stay brief, not only must one stay organized, but also stray away from the path of redundancy which, again, is grounds for excommunication by the Catholic Church, or so it says in some translation of the Catechism. The Catechism is interesting, actually. Between it and the Bible, almost everything is a sin if you have absolutely no understanding of Christian law. But that brings me to my next brilliant, amazing point, and that is to remain on-topic, as I so fabulously have done throughout this piece. Remaining on-topic is the key to being brief with your works. Distractions just detract from the point the work at hand. For example, I once worked on this one show, where the ensemble was the most easily-distracted group of misfits ever. Our musical director eventually snapped because we would never get anything done at rehearsals. All of the teenagers there just kept chattering and conversing and telling their own anecdotes about everything. There was this one girl who would always tell me about her Aunt Sharon and said aunt’s crippling digestive issues, and I really couldn’t understand why. I mean, I completely understand why she would open up to me. I’m a very warm, accepting person. However, your Aunt Sharon’s colon is not the best place to start if you want to foster a meaningful connection with another human being. Anyway, so she started coming up with theories about why her aunt’s colon was in perpetual disarray, and a lot of them sounded fairly made-up. But then she talked about how she might be cursed because she kicked a black cat once. And, you know, if you kick a cat, you kind of deserve whatever curse is thrown at you. How could you do such a thing, Aunt Sharon? What kind of heartless cretin are you? Explain yourself, Sharon! And I just realized, I’m getting off-topic, which I will pretend was my intention all along to provide for you an example of unconcise writing. Learn from me, boys and girls. It’ll do you some good.
But why is brevity important? That’s the real question. If you remain as brief as humanly possible, don’t you miss out on all the important hows and whys of a situation? Short answer -- Yes. Long answer -- Yes, but who cares? People don’t care about the useless details of a statement; they care only about the statement itself. Anything beyond that kills their interest. So let me try this again.
Keep it short, guys.
I screwed up, didn't I?