I've a confession to make. I have an addiction. I'm not at all ashamed, despite the dramatic opening. I'm finding myself engrossed by brain training apps.
Many of them are heinously expensive. Paying three figures for glorified Tetris isn't quite worth it. Though I make do with what I have. One app that's made the grade (once I'd exhausted all others) was Elevate. Simple and stimulating. That's not to say they're completely effective, as science suggests.
What struck me immediately was the breadth and depth of the "writing" portion of the "course." One of the portions fortifying the mind was brevity, or omitting needless words. Old Strunk and White may recommended judicious grammatical choices in their masterwork The Elements of Style. Were they actually improving our brainpower?
Perhaps not. The inverse may be true. They could be conserving others' brainpower. In my view, half the battle's won if you're aiming for clear, concise and effective communication.
One side-effect of the academic experience is contracting superfluis verbis; using too many words.
Those privy to the humanities may (fondly?) remember writing essays of pre-determined length. 2,000w, 4,000w, and so on. Why these arbitrary limits? Moreover, why must students learn habits of ineffective communication in preparation for the wider world?
In my view, the academy seeks to conflate "intelligence" with length. If one's professor has trouble navigating Byzantine sentences and concepts, then surely the student has promise. Peppering one's speech with $10 words must indicate a person of higher learning. What nonsense!
Once the student approaches the marketplace, they soon find their unruly and overgrown sentences are in dire need of pruning. It takes many years to unlearn what our student has imbibed. Co-workers, clients and people in general needn't exert mental effort deciphering your prose. It should flow into them as a river does the ocean. Books I find too clumsy or unwieldy seldom go read. Perhaps you do, too.
My best way to counteract bloated prose? Keep writing. If people have trouble understanding your writing, keeping it simple is best. It's one of my (many) philosophies on copywriting.
Enter the Internet to keep one honest - Hemingway App is a free app to help achieve brevity and clarity in your writing. You can mess around with your settings in Microsoft Word, but Hemingway app is so austere and novel I feel our dear Earnest could settle for it over his old Corona No. 4.
What's your take? Is brevity the soul of good writing?