Stop Listening to Your English Professor

Stop Listening to Your English Professor!

Stop Listening to Your English Professor
Photo by Vernon Chen

Stop Listening to Your English Professor!

We've all heard the experts say to write concisely and cut out all unnecessary words.

Well, I know I'm going to get some criticism for saying this, but I feel so strongly about it. Here goes: stop listening to all of the grammarians, college English professors, and writing experts who keep telling you to cut, cut, cut.

I'm not saying that writing concisely is bad and it certainly has its place in the writing and social media worlds, but I am saying there needs to be a balance between writing concisely and writing fluidly.

When we cut out too many words in our writing, we can be left with a skeleton that is devoid of the contour that gives the writing substance, shape, and character.

Giving concise writing a higher priority over writing that flows naturally can also compromise reader interest. We want our readers to feel at home with what they are reading rather than them feeling like they are reading a formal business letter (I was going to say "legal document" here but the legal jargon can make the writing a bit wordy). Writing for word flow allows us to give the writing a warm, natural, and conversational feel.

Too many people get hung up on writing and trying to figure out what to cut out. They get frustrated or they spend too much time editing.

The truth is, we could spend weeks editing the same document because every time we go back to it, we see more things that we could tweak. Maybe if we use one particular word, we could remove three words. Or if we use this verb, the clarity could improve dramatically.

Focusing too much on writing concisely creates a roadblock that can keep us from making progress and getting our work out into the world. Editing also gets us to second-guess what we really meant by a particular phrase or what message we were really trying to convey. While better clarity is always an improvement, we have to be careful not to get too obsessed with it that we never finish what we start.

It's important to deliver our best work and we should always strive to improve our skills, but it is far more important to deliver valuable content with writing that fits our target audience. As we continue to write and practice, our skills will improve, and with better writing comes better clarity.

I hope that helps and inspires you to keep writing!

Jody Calkins
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