Friday, September 13, 2013

improving text by cutting it down

In making revisions to a paper that was accepted to a journal, I was told to make sure the abstract had no more than 150 words. Of course, my immediate assumption was that the abstract had already been perfected, and having to cut about 40 words could only make it worse. In the event I managed to improve the text as a result, and was left admitting that it was a useful exercise, purely for the purpose of good writing. Maybe I should always cut my text by 20% as part of the process of polishing the writing.

Yet I’m still reluctant to put that idea into practice. It’s probably due to some kind of ingrained resistance to the idea that you can improve something by making an economy. Economising isn’t supposed to be beneficial, it’s supposed to be onerous, right? Maybe the worry is that if I cut 20% voluntarily, I’ll be required to cut another 20%, and there must be some point at which the “less is more” principle stops applying...

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