Pruning the Unnecessary

Ever wonder what to let live or prune?

Image Source: http://goo.gl/t2ozXX

+Laura Gibbs  (Online Course Lady) shared this list of writing tips in response to my blog entry, Don’t Write Like a Puppy – 5 Tips. In that blog entry, she shares this image:

35 words:

Here are several ways to revise that:

  1. 28 words: Like inflated money, the more words you use, the less each is worth. Review your letter as many times as necessary, removing the unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs.
  2. 20 words: The more words you use, the less each is worth. Remove unnecessary words, sentences, and even, paragraphs from your writing.
  3. 16 words: Wordiness, like inflation, makes more of something worth less. Annihilate the unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs.
  4. 12 words: Wordiness, like inflation, makes more of something worth less. Cut the unnecessary.

How would you revise this? What fun!

Now, lest you think this blog entry is simply about writing, take a hard look at your organizational practices. How are you pruning the unnecessary goals, strategies and objectives to keep your organization light and nimble?

In words that resonate with most educators, Peter Drucker (1992) writes that “the largest and easiest gains in knowledge work come from redefining the task and eliminating what need not be done.”

Collins writes that we must all make a “stop doing list.” We must “stop doing anything and everything” that doesn’t get us the results we want (Collins, 2001).

Results will require tough but intelligent decisions from us. To gain the results we want will require that we systematically review and eliminate unnecessary, ill-wrought goals and committee work, that we abandon ineffective but so-called “research-based” programs and strategies.
Source: Schmoker, Up and Away

Jim Collins shares these 3 questions in regards to a stop doing list:

  1. What are you deeply passionate about?
  2. What are you are genetically encoded for — what activities do you feel just “made to do”?
  3. What makes economic sense — what can you make a living at?

If we changed this around for writing, I’d probably put it this way:

  1. What ideas are integral to the passion of a piece of writing?
  2. What vocabulary best matches that particular piece of writing? 
  3. What words carry the meaning of the piece and yet say nothing more?

Or simply, keep what adds value and eliminate what doesn’t. That works for organizations and writing, does it not? Just beware the danger of either/or (“Sucker’s Choice”) decisions.


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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2 thoughts on “Pruning the Unnecessary

  1. doug0077 April 9, 2014 at 10:02 pm Reply

    Scott Adams advice is to pretend you will be paid $100 for every word you can eliminate from your writing. Doug

  2. Stephen Downes April 14, 2014 at 11:15 am Reply

    The more words you use, the less each word is worth. So remove unnecessary words.

    15 words – and clearer.

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