Over the sea to Gib

 “I would have written something shorter only I didn’t have the time.” Pascal

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer and aviator.


“Poetry, so Alan Bennett observed in his Poetry in Motion talks, “has it over prose in that you can do more with less. To illustrate this: -

“He never went anywhere, spoke to nobody, not even his neighbours. A real loner who kept himself to himself, I never saw him, not even at the corner shop. Still say this for him, always paid his rent on time, so I was never bothered by him being unsocial.”

Compared to:-  

“Nobody came,

and nobody went,

but he took in the milk and he paid the rent.” TS Eliot


Poets are always romantic, like the dashing figure of Byron fighting in Greece, Shelly dying young, or Chatterton poisoning himself in a London Garret. Even the misanthropic ones living life out in the wilds, never seeing anyone but writing in solitude have an aura about them.

Compared to:-

“Encased in talent like a uniform,

The rank of every poet is well known;

They can amaze us like a thunderstorm,

Or die so young, or live for years alone.” The Novelist WH Auden


These are by no means perfect examples but good enough to illustrate the point. (Is this last sentence necessary?) So, a few short sharp words can communicate more than several word laden paragraphs. Brevity can be the difference between capturing your reader or losing her attention. Tabloid newspapers know this, a memorable alliterative headline followed by a few short sentences that communicate the story, are what draws readers in. This is the work of the sub editor who, much to the chagrin of many a reporter, will cut away all the flowery or superfluous language submitted to her.

As a blogger and now Community Reporter I must be my own editor, so, without necessarily adopting the hard boiled approach of the sub editor I must always cast a critical eye over my copy, the injunction, "omit needless words," always at the back of my mind. I consequently have 2 rules for editing.

  1. Never edit/proof read immediately after writing, let it stand for at least 30 minutes before going back to the piece with a fresh pair of eyes.
  2. Check and check again for errors of grammar and spelling, or poverty of prose.

So, if you found this piece too long, I apologise, I lacked the time to make it shorter.




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