The Importance of Snappy Copy

When I was younger and first starting to take creative writing seriously, I thought being “a good writer” meant constructing lengthy, flowy passages of elaborate text with the longest, most complex words possible.  I thought I should aim to write something with the highest reading level possible, use words understandable only by people who had PhD’s, and write as pretentiously as possible to ensure that other people would think I was “a good writer.”

I also thought Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century was the best show on television.

Nine years later, I’d be the first to say lengthy and elaborate passages are a hallmark of uninformed writing.  This is largely a product of my time as a journalism major in college – I’ll graduate with a Communication degree with a journalism concentration in May – but it’s also something I’ve learned while taking classes towards a creative writing degree I am no longer pursuing.

Where’s the proof, you ask?  Allow me to demonstrate my point.

A single punchy word does more damage than a long, floppy phrase.  A common misconception among new writers – which I’ve observed several times at student workshops and am also guilty of – is that long sentences equal good writing.  This is not true, and over-use of adverbs and adjectives make a piece look sloppy.

Now that I have more workshop experience and critical reading experience, it’s frustrating to read sentences with more than one or two adjectives or adverbs when I’m reading fiction.  Reading poetry brings out even more of a critic in me.  There are more effective ways to say things – and don’t even get me started on the word “that”!

When you write blogs or articles, shorter is almost always better.  While many bloggers can write posts into the thousands, it’s much easier for readers to consume posts between 500 and 700 words, which is the goal for a standard news article.  It’s easier to read pieces of that length.

It’s also easier to read shorter paragraphs, which is easier to do when the piece is not as long.  It’s much more difficult for me to read dense writing because I am now very accustomed to reading short, snappy blogs and news articles.

And my final point: this video by OkaySamurai on YouTube.

If that doesn’t convince you that snappy writing is important, I don’t know what else will!

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Snappy Copy

  1. I loved ‘Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century’! (And once again, now I can’t get that tune out of my head. Thanks a lot!)

    One thing you touched on that resonates with me is when you said you can’t read pieces like you used to, after all those classes. I’m the same way. As a reader, I’ll let a writer get away with a lot of things simply because they never bothered me. After classes, workshops, learning the craft and hearing other author/agent/publisher gripes – some days it’s impossible to get in the mindset of reading for fun.

    I don’t like that.

    As an author, I strive for perfection but as a reader, I give a lot of leeway. Never before in my life have I been so harsh with books because I have trouble shutting off the mechanics of how one ‘should’ write and let loose in the fun and imagination of the writer.

    Then, back to the author, you get the ‘you can’t do that’ in your writing and the next book you read does that. That’s happened so many times it’s not funny.

    Great post – it’s a lot to think about.

    Like

    • I did, too – it played at 6 in the morning here, and I always woke up so I could watch it.

      I can read for fun – oh, how I can read for fun – but when I workshop with other people, I’m always thinking like an editor, not like a friend. I find myself really picky about things when I read things written by my peers.

      Also, I have developed an extreme hatred for the word “that,” which is problematic because my boyfriend uses the word “that” frequently in his writing. Since working in media, I’ve come to hate it because it’s such a terrible word – but a lot of people my age are still academic writers, and academic writing encourages the use of long, flowy passages to fill word count or page space.

      Anyway, I digress. I’m glad you liked the post!

      Like

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