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#1 Posted by AnxiousTube (245 posts) -

So, a question, or rather requirement, often thrown on me in college is to be more concise in my work; although I believe I have tackled this rather well. I was wondering, do you believe the length and scope of a topic need be discussed in a form that focuses on length, e.g. word count, page count, or do you think it is the matter that is important and connections that are formed within a topic paper, discussion, review, etc that make a paper worthwhile? I believe the latter to be true, especially in my work, and although grades really matter for shit, I often get, "A's," on my papers.

Why does this matter on this site? Well, the concept of a short, concise review has popped into my mind on several occasions. And this is not solely connected to reviews, I have voiced this about many of the scholarly works I have read on a multitude of topics.

Also, is this a product of my generation: the millennials? Or is this just the natural evolution of discussion and debate? I don't know. I believe it might be necessary, as technology and our connections to others becomes closer and closer. What do you think?

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#2 Posted by Mortuss_Zero (744 posts) -

The amount of pages or words you spend getting your ideas across is utterly irrelevant compared to the content of them.

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#3 Posted by Immortal_Guy (203 posts) -

In general, concision is nice, but I think it's clarity that's more important. The two often go together - but if something being longer is making it clearer, then I'm more than happy to deal with the loss of concision. The problem is (particularly in academic work, in my experience) that when things are longer it seems to come with the side-effect of them being less clear - either because the author's ideas weren't very clearly thought out and arranged to begin with (and that caused the length), or because they've dressed up clear ideas in lengthy and complicated prose, that being the done thing in some circles.

In my experience of university, many tutors who asked for concision often didn't provide it in their own writing - but of course, that doesn't stop them expecting it from their students!

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#4 Posted by deactivated-5967fc912058b (103 posts) -

I've mostly been taught to pad out my work in order to meet a word/page requirement. As a result, I am an abysmal writer.

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#5 Posted by AnxiousTube (245 posts) -

@immortal_guy: @doenut: @mortuss_zero: I happen to agree with most of your sentiments. I disagree that longer for the sake of clarity is necessary. I am a theatre student, and an example of this is found in Uta Hagen's book, Respect for Acting, where she goes in great detail, to a detriment. I have experienced this in other courses as well, especially outside my major, but for me that is a leading example of clarity and concision being lost in the effort to expand upon rather simple ideas.

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#7 Posted by conmulligan (1883 posts) -

Very.

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#9 Edited by Justin258 (15512 posts) -

Are you being too verbose? Perhaps you think you're expanding on something but instead you're repeating something or going off on a tangent.

Edit: Also, may be worth reading The Elements of Style. Omit needless words!

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#10 Edited by Immortal_Guy (203 posts) -

@anxioustube: I know where you're coming from - I know someone who's very serious about training as an actor, and a lot of the books and courses he works through (including Uta Hagen's!) go into great detail and make very heavy weather of what seem to me relatively simple concepts. I think what you said about authors feeling the need to expand on simple ideas is true - if their ideas seem too simple people think they have to dress them up into something more "substantial". I don't really know why - a hallmark of the very best ideas is that they often seem simple, or even obvious, once you've been told them!

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#11 Edited by chu52 (701 posts) -

How concise?

Buy Metal Gear, enjoy Metal Gear.

Also no offense, just constructive criticsism. If you take three paragraphs to ask a question about being more concise, perhaps they have a point regarding you needing to be more concise.

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#12 Edited by imsh_pl (4208 posts) -

It depends on the subject. Generally, the more 'hard science'-y the subject, the more concise the paper should be. So in a math paper there's no room for personal input at all; in a biology paper you can potentially present some, let's say, real-life medical advantages of your findings; and a sociology or English paper can often be written entirely based on a personal perspective of yours.

I'm speaking in broad strokes here obviously, and it also depends on the way the subject is taught and on the person grading it; but I think the principle that more logic/science stands in inverse proportion to personal input and therefore promotes cohesion is generally true.

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#13 Posted by deactivated-5967fc912058b (103 posts) -

@imsh_pl: It's crazy because with online classes they don't seem to care about integrity or logic. It's all about the requirements of the assignment. Unnecessary padding will improve the grade even though it detracts from the quality of the writing.

That's just what I've seen. I'm no writer though.

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#14 Posted by dudeglove (13644 posts) -

Edit: Also, may be worth reading The Elements of Style. Omit needless words!

Strunk & White's book is fabulous. It's barely 45 pages at best (A5 size) and I have at least two copies in my office.

As a more sweeping generalization, the more you read and write, the better you get at it. I edit for a living, so I have no idea what that says about me.

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#15 Posted by Fredchuckdave (10824 posts) -

Quite.

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#16 Posted by ripelivejam (13044 posts) -
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#17 Posted by ch3burashka (6086 posts) -
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#18 Edited by Justin258 (15512 posts) -

@dudeglove said:
@believer258 said:

Edit: Also, may be worth reading The Elements of Style. Omit needless words!

Strunk & White's book is fabulous. It's barely 45 pages at best (A5 size) and I have at least two copies in my office.

As a more sweeping generalization, the more you read and write, the better you get at it. I edit for a living, so I have no idea what that says about me.

I'd buy a copy of that book for anybody that asks.

Now that I'm on an actual computer, I should type up the full quote:

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

Wonderful paragraph, that. I've seen a few of your forum posts and they are too wordy. Just as an example, you have a tendency to do this number:

So, a question, or rather requirement, often thrown

Well, is it a question or a requirement? If your writing is full of this sort of thing, you should rethink how you approach your writing. It could be coming across as filler to a teacher. Get rid of words and phrases that don't "tell" anything that hasn't already been said, or that don't make something clearer.

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#19 Posted by personandstuff (632 posts) -

Brevity is the soul of wit.

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#20 Posted by FinalDasa (3163 posts) -

Length helps determine scope. If you're asked to write a three page paper you know the paper won't go into any kind of depth compared to a ten page paper.

Moderator
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#21 Posted by indure (104 posts) -

I'm a graphic designer and not a writer so my answer is a little skewed, but I believe being concise is paramount to effectively communicating. Like others have stated, it shouldn't be achieve by sacrificing clarity, but it should always be a goal to strive for and a necessary step when self-editing. That being said, you can still be rather verbose and still communicate quickly and effectively if you use proper formatting, hierarchy, and structure.

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#22 Posted by AnxiousTube (245 posts) -

@imsh_pl: The responses to my question are quite wonderful. I think I agree, the content of what exists in what you are discussing is relative to what you are talking about. Using examples for my work is quite common, and the more I use the better the paper tends to be. I try not to be too verbose; in fact, verbosity is often an annoyance to me; I've even played on this in some poetry I've written.

@believer258: I'll have to look into buying this book. The one paragraph that you quoted is quite intriguing to me and happens to ring true in my experience. One thing that I've learned in creative writing is stream-of-consciousness writing. In this process you abandon everything you've learned about writing and just let loose. This is a great warm-up for any paper. It also happens to be a wonderful healer as well; a mental healer, capable of exploring aspects of who you are what you are doing. This is great for English papers, Arts papers, and Social Science papers. I've only written one science paper and I didn't use stream-of-conscious writing during that time, so I have no clue if it is helpful for that type of writing.

@doenut: I've never taken online classes so I have no experience of this. I've written a thirty page paper on Bosch a couple years back that was very expansive, and it needed to be; to explore my own sentiments, what it meant to me, and how Bosch's history impacted what he created in his art. I was asked by my professor at the time if this was actually my writing because it was so academic. It was, of course, my paper. So I've never really experienced what you were talking about but it's interesting that it exists.

@believer258: It's not a problem that I really have anymore, but I understand where you're coming from and thank you for your input.

One thing I will try to add to this conversation is the question: how can we make reviews more concise without limiting ourselves in what we can explain about the game, movie, book, etc? Examples are clearly key to when writing reviews, as they are in English papers and Art papers, but how can we shorten - or do we - reviews so that they can touch more people yet still explore the wonders of what we experience in - yes, I'm going to say it - a piece of art.

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#23 Edited by Justin258 (15512 posts) -

@anxioustube said: @imsh_pl: The responses to my question are quite wonderful. I think I agree, the content of what exists in what you are discussing is relative to what you are talking about. Using examples for my work is quite common, and the more I use the better the paper tends to be. I try not to be too verbose; in fact, verbosity is often an annoyance to me; I've even played on this in some poetry I've written.

@believer258: I'll have to look into buying this book. The one paragraph that you quoted is quite intriguing to me and happens to ring true in my experience. One thing that I've learned in creative writing is stream-of-consciousness writing. In this process you abandon everything you've learned about writing and just let loose. This is a great warm-up for any paper. It also happens to be a wonderful healer as well; a mental healer, capable of exploring aspects of who you are what you are doing. This is great for English papers, Arts papers, and Social Science papers. I've only written one science paper and I didn't use stream-of-conscious writing during that time, so I have no clue if it is helpful for that type of writing.

@doenut: I've never taken online classes so I have no experience of this. I've written a thirty page paper on Bosch a couple years back that was very expansive, and it needed to be; to explore my own sentiments, what it meant to me, and how Bosch's history impacted what he created in his art. I was asked by my professor at the time if this was actually my writing because it was so academic. It was, of course, my paper. So I've never really experienced what you were talking about but it's interesting that it exists.

@believer258: It's not a problem that I really have anymore, but I understand where you're coming from and thank you for your input.

One thing I will try to add to this conversation is the question: how can we make reviews more concise without limiting ourselves in what we can explain about the game, movie, book, etc? Examples are clearly key to when writing reviews, as they are in English papers and Art papers, but how can we shorten - or do we - reviews so that they can touch more people yet still explore the wonders of what we experience in - yes, I'm going to say it - a piece of art.

Stream-of-consciousness is a good starting point, yes, but you can't really use it for anything except generating ideas. When you're actually writing your paper, you shouldn't even think about using stream-of-consciousness, that's a tool almost solely intended for creative writing.

Let me be blunt - your writing is tedious to read. You expand on things far too much. I'm going to take your response and see if I can make it more concise before I run off to work.

I'll have to look into buying this book. The one paragraph that you quoted is quite intriguing to me and happens to ring true in my experience. One thing that I've learned in creative writing is stream-of-consciousness writing. In this process you abandon everything you've learned about writing and just let loose. This is a great warm-up for any paper. It also happens to be a wonderful healer as well; a mental healer, capable of exploring aspects of who you are what you are doing. This is great for English papers, Arts papers, and Social Science papers. I've only written one science paper and I didn't use stream-of-conscious writing during that time, so I have no clue if it is helpful for that type of writing.

I'll have to look into buying this book, that paragraph you quoted is intriguing. Have you heard of "stream-of-consciousness" writing? In this process, you abandon everything you've learned about writing and let loose. I've found it a great warm up for any paper as well as a mental healer, something that helps you explore aspects of yourself and what you're doing. I've found it a great tool for writing papers.

For the record, I finished college as an English major.

EDIT: I remember being super impressed with Dan Rykert's first review on Giantbomb, I found it pretty concise and detailed. I forget what the game was, though.

One of my college freshman teachers told me that essays should be like a short skirt - long enough to cover everything, but not so long that it's boring. I'd be willing to bet that if your essays were short skirts, they'd reach the knees.

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#25 Posted by ModernAlkemie (390 posts) -

It depends a lot on the writing context, but effective communication requires you to be economical with your words. Always try to convey your meaning in a more concise way. If nothing else, it will help you clarify your thought processes. I say this as a professor of chemistry who has to write for professional publication.

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#26 Posted by ajamafalous (13805 posts) -

It's actually hilarious to me how long and how many unnecessary phrases (and sentences) you threw into the three paragraphs it took to ask a question about being more concise.

Honestly, whoever gave you that criticism is spot-on. As an exercise, reread the posts you've written in this thread and try to trim them down. You extrapolate a lot when you don't need to and are too anxious to be verbose; it makes your writing exhausting to read.

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#27 Posted by YesIndeed (97 posts) -

Brevity is the soul of wit.

Brevity is ... wit.

(Full credit to The Simpsons for that one).

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#28 Posted by pontoon_yacht (136 posts) -

I'm a former journalist, now a journalism professor. Most of what I teach is writing. News writing is built to be small.

If you ever want to ask someone questions about whittling down, and generally the pace/structure of writing, send me a message.

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#29 Edited by MezZa (3036 posts) -

It depends on the context of what you're writing. If it's a business or technical document, you should be as concise as possible. If it's a creative paper like a story/poem/whatever then feel free to get crazy with you words and descriptions.

My literature professor always said any fool can throw a bunch of words together and write a long essay. It takes intelligence to say only what you need to say.

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#30 Posted by notnert427 (2157 posts) -

I'm admittedly not concise. In fact, I probably make an effort not to be on some level. Whenever someone tells me what I wrote was too long, what I hear is that they're too lazy to read, which is perhaps a self-serving rationalization, but with some truth to it. Twitter, Facebook, et al. have made communication so damn banal that reading anything over 140 characters in the form of complete sentences is viewed as laborious by many, and that's fucking sad. I won't make claims of being particularly erudite or eloquent, but in my experience, there's very little worth reading that happens to also be laconic. Brevity and detail tend to come at the expense of each other.

I believe the content is what matters, but I generally prefer elaboration over concision in both reading and in my own writing. A well-supported idea/thought/position is inherently more clear and informative than a statement that leaves things open to interpretation due to being intentionally terse. It also serves to separate the readers from the skimmers. When I write something, it isn't typically a half-assed effort, so I'd prefer that those who would make a half-assed effort "reading" it just see too many words and skip it entirely to allow for proper discussion with the people who took the time to fully read and consider it. I don't think that's an unreasonable or unfair perspective to have.

If you ask me, this world needs more articulation, not less. If you write from the heart and put some real substance on paper, it shouldn't matter if you're a bit verbose in the process. Yeah, you'll run into the occasional teacher who will ask you to be more succint (often simply to make their job less time-consuming) and you'll alienate some indolent others, but I've found that most people will at least acknowledge and respect your efforts if you're explaining yourself in detail. That typically holds true even if they disagree with you're saying, whereas a curt statement is easily misinterpreted and can come off far more obnoxious when there's no reasoning behind it. Just write until you feel like you've gotten your point across, edit out redundancies, and let people react how they're going to react. That's all you can do.

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#31 Edited by D4RKSH33P (159 posts) -

I have been told I need to be more concise. I've tried. The problem is that I have a length requirement to most assignments. Isn't content more important? My grades reflect that idea.

This seems important in game review writing, which is why I ask on a site like this. It isn't just reviews, but many other academic works.

It seems like i may be related to my generation and how our communication means intersect with technology.

(It means nothing since I actually believe it's about knowing your audience, but here is my 5 minute rewrite that I think says everything you did. Most writing I do is technical writing so being direct and concise is important.)

@anxioustube said:

So, a question, or rather requirement, often thrown on me in college is to be more concise in my work; although I believe I have tackled this rather well. I was wondering, do you believe the length and scope of a topic need be discussed in a form that focuses on length, e.g. word count, page count, or do you think it is the matter that is important and connections that are formed within a topic paper, discussion, review, etc that make a paper worthwhile? I believe the latter to be true, especially in my work, and although grades really matter for shit, I often get, "A's," on my papers.

Why does this matter on this site? Well, the concept of a short, concise review has popped into my mind on several occasions. And this is not solely connected to reviews, I have voiced this about many of the scholarly works I have read on a multitude of topics.

Also, is this a product of my generation: the millennials? Or is this just the natural evolution of discussion and debate? I don't know. I believe it might be necessary, as technology and our connections to others becomes closer and closer. What do you think?

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#32 Edited by xSeanZx (275 posts) -

You want to be concise to the point where multiple threads dont get locked in a forum by mods.

That is what my professor once told me, at least.

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#33 Edited by kcin (1000 posts) -

Hey dude. Your posts throughout this thread are needlessly verbose. It reads like you are typing your thought process, redressing things you have only just said or, worse, haven't even said yet. This probably helps you formulate your thoughts in verbal conversation, and might help your peers relate to your thought process; however, in type, you have the opportunity to edit out your process and communicate only the thought itself. Reconsidering your words and addressing how you are deciding to say what you are going to say is self-indulgent writing. Perhaps it would be best to write the way you currently write as a first draft, and then go back and prune out all of the reconsideration, thought formulation, and anticipatory questions or statements.

Also, cut down on adverbs unless you REALLY need them. For example, you used "quite" three times in one post.

And finally, to be fair, it takes one to know one.

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#35 Posted by AdequatelyPrepared (2522 posts) -

Very.

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#36 Edited by Excitable_Misunderstood_Genius (346 posts) -

OP, use less compound sentences and settle down with the, entirely, uncalled for, commas. That'll give your concision a boost right there. You're just at an age and state of education where it's very easy to get stuck in the idea that more words means better words. If you can't read it out loud then rewrite it.

Always remember the old saying "sesquipedalian verbiage obviates elucidatory cognizance".

You jerk, I was gonna say that.

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#37 Posted by AnxiousTube (245 posts) -

@notnert427: There's a part of me that agrees with you. I've made quite the effort to be concise and somehow verbose at the same time. A criticism on here marks me for that, but I think that may be an opinion of the reader than an actual fact or absolute that exists for all people. The syntax of our language is constantly changing and therefore it cannot be said to exist in a perfect state; which is exactly why absolutes, in most things beyond science, are ridiculous.

Also, I'm getting the feeling that it is exactly what I thought: relative.

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#38 Edited by mlarrabee (3917 posts) -

Brevity is the soul of wit, so omit needless words. An uncommon word in an already verbose sentence can look portentous. A smartly chosen uncommon word can make a verbose sentence succinct. I could say it in three words, but someone probably already made a way to say it in one.

When posting here I tend to pour out streams of consciousness, creating overly complex and flowery paragraphs. Everyone needs to draft and edit. Even with a vocabulary as poor as mine, with rewriting anything can be condensed. I was destroyed in the writing portion of the SATs for using a half page while others wrote six times that. But thankfully my college graders were less impressed by length. Ahem.

@believer258 said:

Edit: Also, may be worth reading The Elements of Style. Omit needless words!

Strunk & White's book is fabulous. It's barely 45 pages at best (A5 size) and I have at least two copies in my office.

As a more sweeping generalization, the more you read and write, the better you get at it. I edit for a living, so I have no idea what that says about me.

I'm compelled to buy any copies I find at used bookstores. Considering how I believe everyone should read it, that habit should probably be broken.

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#39 Posted by Excitable_Misunderstood_Genius (346 posts) -

@notnert427: There's a part of me that agrees with you. I've made quite the effort to be concise and somehow verbose at the same time. A criticism on here marks me for that, but I think that may be an opinion of the reader than an actual fact or absolute that exists for all people. The syntax of our language is constantly changing and therefore it cannot be said to exist in a perfect state; which is exactly why absolutes, in most things beyond science, are ridiculous.

Also, I'm getting the feeling that it is exactly what I thought: relative.

You misconstrue your affected erudition as indicative of elevated perspicacity when really it's just some really cheap armor to hide behind.

Haven't you read Aristotle's Poetics? Without reciprocal cognition of your information the entire endeavor is a failure.

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#40 Posted by AnxiousTube (245 posts) -

@believer258: I enjoy your criticisms and will look into exploring what your saying. However, I think some of the verbosity of my writing may be a result of word count and page length requirements, which are so endemic to my liberal arts education. I literally have not been in a class yet where these requirements did not exist; it's kinda annoying.

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#41 Posted by BluPotato (797 posts) -

Very.

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#42 Edited by AnxiousTube (245 posts) -

@excitable_misunderstood_genius: Reciprocal cognition is a piece of his Unites. It is a matter of the Aristotelian method for creating a piece of tragedy, which the Poetics focuses on. There are many other forms of creating works, some of which have absolutely no need to return to the original thought. This is easily observed in the idea of things existing in a masculine state and a feminine state in theatre. In the feminine state there is no need to return to your original point; it is about the journey, not the destination.

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#43 Posted by AnxiousTube (245 posts) -

@anxioustube: However, I will note that there is an air of completion when reciprocal cognition occurs in a piece. This can exist in a state from the beginning of a piece that is not clear and by the end of the piece you are completely thrown off guard by something coming full circle. This is clear in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesmen, which fits into Aristotle's construction quite well. In Death of a Salesmen Willy enters the house in a state of clouded thought, to put it lightly. By the end of the play, Willy leaves the house in the same state. The rest of the family thinks nothing of this, much as any audience would, until Willy is killed in an accident right outside his house. This is a sign that reciprocal cognition need not be a thought but possibly a state and/or action. The same can be said with a written piece; it may not be a thought, it may be a conveyed feeling that need not be mentioned but is implied in tone.