W Christian Consulting

What could you be doing better?

How many words does it take?

I never liked when my teachers would assign 1000-word essays or 3-page papers or any other kind of writing that had to have a certain length.  As one who hated grading papers in graduate school as well as when I was a professor, I definitely appreciate the upper limit but even that should be a rough guideline.  What I don’t get is the minimum length.  Don’t penalize me for being succinct but feel free to dock points if my response is lacking in content.

A popular speaker series is TED and TEDx conferences. (Check out http://www.ted.com/about/our-organization for info.)  They are popular because they have an upper time limit and no lower limit.  If it only takes you six minutes, you can take six minutes.  One of my favorite TED Talks is by Sebastian Wernicke, who cleverly summarized over 1000 talks in six words.  Of course, there’s a long (and amusing) preface.  So you might want to jump to the seven minute marker to get the answer.

How many words should it take to convey an idea?  It depends on the idea, right?  Unfortunately, though when a person has an idea, they feel like they have to write a book and no respectable book is less than 100 pages or so even if they only need, oh, 1 page.  This comes to mind because I was considering buying a book that someone recommended but I checked out a YouTube video from the author and he summed up the concept in 3 bullets in 3 minutes.  The book is 320 pages!  It’s full of examples and exposition, but the 3 bullets are all I need.

I’m guilty of verbosity as well.  I had this revelation and started writing a book a few years ago but I didn’t finish because, among other things, I didn’t know how to pad it enough to make it respectably long.  So the world has missed out on this earth-shattering revelation.  But not for much longer.  I’m going to write up the idea in a future blog post.  Stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment to let me know what you think.  (Keep it short, though, if you want me to read it.)