All of us who love to write often are caught in an “expression” trap. We know what we want to say, but to fully express our thoughts we become wordy and often lose our intended point as well as our readers.

Merrill and Donna Douglass wrote in their book Manage Your Time, Your Work, Yourself, “Write less, say more. Poor writing compounds reading problems. Experts estimate that most adults write three to five times more words than they need to convey their message. This means that the reader must plow through three to five times more material.”[1]

Unfortunately, over time we’ve learned to be poor writers and we have an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we can eliminate unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs. It’s time we stop using lazy verbs and bring back action verbs that convey our message and stimulate our readers.  It’s time we say more with less. Let me give you an example.

We can find some clues in the writings of the apostle Paul, specifically in his epistle to the Galatians. In just a few short sentences Paul masterfully combines extremes to make his point to this small, struggling church. He writes:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11, ESV

In these short sentences, Paul takes the reader from divine glory to the edge of the pit, the cross. He uses unique words to provide the reader with seven steps and some contrasts that make his point (and our English is not as rich as the Greek, but we can still feel the power of his few words). For example, Jesus was in the form of God, yet afterward a servant. He did not grasp equality with God, he emptied himself. Jesus became a humble man, a dying man, a crucified man, but he was also exalted. Paul uses few words to provide us with a deeply theological premise and a practical mindset we can develop, with Jesus.

As writers, we need to omit the fluff and focus our attention on communicating with passion and clarity. Writing is an artistic process. It’s a form of personal expression that uses words. Writing less to gain more may take longer, and the words may be fewer and to a point, but once we sift our words, as Paul did to the Galatians, the result can be world-changing.

For more about writing, marketing and leadership visit waynehastings.com

[1]Merrill E. Douglass, Donna N. Douglass, Manage Your Time, Your Work, Yourself,(New York, AMACOM, 1993), 100


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