ACW

ACW

Monday, 4 May 2015

How many words? - Tania Vaughan

It seems that everything I write these days has a word count. Books, articles, blog posts and even tweets have a limit or recommended number of words.

It’s not a new thing. There has always been a guide for how we use words. In the New Testament Jesus talks to the Pharisees about how many words they are using. Matthew 6:7 (AMP) says:

“And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.”

The AMP version expands on what Jesus means by heaping up phrases and other translations use the words “babbling” (NIV) and “meaningless repetition” (NASB).

Jesus is saying don't talk for the sake of it, don't just fill the space or try to add in clever words. Short can be sweet, but it doesn’t mean cutting out the important stuff that needs to be said.

There are times when the repetition of words is necessary to really bring a point home. Throughout the Bible words, phrases and instructions are repeated, these are the things God really wants us to grasp. When Jesus says “meaningless repetition” he means words for the sake of words.

I tend to have the opposite problem, I don't say enough. When reading through a chapter of my WIP the proof reader made many notes that I should expand on certain things and even add in my own view, comments and testimony. This is not me at all. I never use 10 words when three will suffice, but I was losing meaning. There are words that will tell the story, they may be lengthy but they are not meaningless.

How do you know if the words on the page before you are meaningless or the making of a valid point? For me, I read them out loud or record what I have written and listen back. If I wouldn’t say it I don't type it! I ask myself "What is the point of what I'm saying, and am I making it?" I get others to read it, it's one of the reasons we have editors and proof readers.

Jesus' point is that prayer is a conversation with God. I don’t tend to have conversations where I repeat words and labour a point, I try to engage, pause and encourage. I want to write the way I talk.

With blogs this is even more important I often get half way through a blog post and my attention is gone. Is it the fact that it is online? Do I expect it to be shorter, punchier? It could be, but mainly it’s about content if it’s good then I will keep reading. The words are not meaningless, they are necessary to really grasp the story. It is when a point is laboured and not brought home that I hit the close button before reaching the end.

If your blog post or article is only 400 words, rather than the average 750, then be confident that what you are saying has impact, don't lose it by trying to up the word count unnecessarily.

Am I rambling?! 

In the spirit of my preferred short and sweet style, I leave you with Psalm 117. The shortest Psalm in the Bible. In less than 30 words, in most translations, it beautifully sums up the character of God and how we, as believers, should respond.

“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” (NIV)

Linking my words with Purposeful Faith #RaRaLinkup


12 comments:

  1. Great post. It's good to know that we do not need thousands of words to get our point across. I love the example from the Psalms.

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  2. You're right about blogs. Sometimes I think people don't even start reading if the post looks too long, whether the content is good or not.

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    1. I do often scroll a blog first to see how long it is - we read so many that it needs to catch the eye and not take too much time

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  3. It's an excellent discipline to write to a word count. But word count shouldn't become an obsession! My feeling is that word flow is more crucial.

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    1. Exactly Paul - the flow is so much more important than the numbers :)

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  4. Great post Tania. Well said.

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  5. Interesting, Tania. I enjoy cutting out unnecessary words. Is there a difference between writing for readers and writing for listeners? A friend of mine keeps reminding everyone what proportion of spoken words we actually hear. There is usually a lot of padding in speeches. What do you think?

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    1. I'm not that good with people who waffle in speech either to be honest. When I speak at conferences I like to keep it to the point, an interesting story can keep interest but if it goes too long you can lose the audience and the point!

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  6. Great post, Tania! As a more naturally verbose woman I can see I have a lot to learn from what you've shared. Thank you. :) x

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