What Does "Tight" Writing" Mean?


Tight writing…

·       Is clear and concise and makes every word count.

"If you give me an eight-page article and I tell you to cut it to four pages, you’ll howl and say it can’t be done. Then you’ll go home and do it, and it will be much better. After that comes the hard part: cutting it to three." (William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction)

·       Is not about sentence length. 

"Long sentences are not necessarily wordy, nor are short sentences always concise. A sentence is wordy if it can be tightened without loss of meaning." (Diana Hacker, The Bedford Handbook, 6th ed.)

·        Requires learning to recognize wordiness.

"You are wordy when you are redundant, such as when you write, 'Last May during the spring,' or 'little kittens' or 'very unique.' Wordiness for the writer also means using long words when there are good short ones available, using uncommon words when familiar ones are handy, using words that look like the work of a Scrabble champion, not a writer." (Gary Provost, 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing)

·       Is not a first-draft concern.

"Go ahead and make big scrawls and mistakes…we need to make messes…to find out who we are and why we are here—and by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing." (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)

"Revision is where the magic happens. For me, the best, most inspired ideas often appear during rewriting. I compare the initial getting-it-down process to skimming the surface of a pond. Often all I get are weeds and scum, the everyday accumulation of clichés and pat phrases we use without thought. Revision means diving deep to where the pure, clean water is." (From http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue9/true.htm.)

"Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find writing is hard, it’s because it is hard." (William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction)

Written by Jean Kavich Bloom, February 2018