Is more the new less?
Less is more.
It’s a language lesson I’ve had drilled into me for a long time from my journalism studies though to my career in the media.
From pithy headlines to punchy intros – I always try to be on point by being to the point in my press releases, blogs, features, magazine articles…
Indeed, an Oxford University Press blog I read in the last week alone was on clarity and structure for writers and it recommended avoiding sentences that were ‘awkward’ or ‘clumsy’. It contained various examples to demonstrate the importance of sentence weight or length.
The blog followed not long after Twitter announced it was extending its character limit from 140 to 280 characters which got me thinking, despite everything I’ve been taught, is ‘more’ the new ‘less’?
According to a product manager and a senior software engineer at Twitter, the change could ‘balance issues with wording and space across languages’.
But for others it meant ‘Twitter just got twice as bad’ as Twitter’s USP was its brevity.
“It is supposed to make you think about removing words to make your thoughts snappier and your messages more concise,” said one writer for Vox. “In a world filled with way too much overly long writing, Twitter brings back word and character limits that force you to get to the point.”
But what did writers make of it all? One my favourite authors, Stephen King, who I have referenced in blogs before, was very short – if not sweet – on the matter.
J.K. Rowling felt Twitter’s 140-character USP was part of its magic: ‘The whole point, for me, was how inventive people could be within that concise framework’.
As frustrating as 140-characters could sometimes be, I have enjoyed being called to colleagues’ desk to help them prune their prose on Twitter in recent years.
I’m also inclined to agree with the vociferous voices who said the only new feature they had actually wanted from Twitter was an ‘edit’ button.
But ‘editing’ – that’s the topic of another Wordsmith’s World…