"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." - Thomas Jefferson
Sometimes two words are needed. For example, just to say blue is not effective communication because there are many shades of blue. It is better to say "sky blue." However, we often use too many words.
Word economy is important in writing. First, there are often size limits. Our local newspaper has a limit of 200 words for letters to the editor. That means every word has to be meaningful.
Also, authors compete for space in magazines. Last fall I collaborated with Mista Wilt on an article about our experience at the 2011 California Clown Campin' educational program. We are both members of the Circus Fans of America Association so I submitted the article to White Tops, that organization's magazine. The editors responded that they liked the article, but they didn't have enough space for the entire article in the next issue and it was too short to run as two parts. So, I took out one section and expanded it to create a second article. The first part appeared in that issue, but they were tight on space again in the next issue so the second half was never published.
When an article is published you are competing for the reader's attention. It takes time to read an article, and people often have a limited amount of time to devote to a magazine so they seldom read every article. If the beginning of your article rambles too much, or if your article simply seems too long, the reader will turn the page to sample another article.
When I write one of my magazine articles the first draft is always too long. I don't worry about length because I am simply recording my ideas. The first step is to edit it for content by removing things that interrupt the flow or are irrelevant. Then I edit it again eliminating unnecessary words. Often I end up cutting about a quarter of the original material.
Word economy is also important in speaking. I am giving a speech based on my circus experience next week at California Clown Campin'. I have been writing it out word for word and editing it. First, there is a limit on what I can talk about. I could talk for hours about the things I experienced in the circus. However, I have an hour available on the schedule. It is important that I don't run over because after I speak, the group will board a bus to travel to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus where we will be guests of the circus clowns at a special reception before the show begins. Second, I want to make sure that what I talk about during that hour will be the most helpful to the listeners. I could just make it an entertaining talk, but I making it an inspirational motivational speech so it is worth the time participants will invest in listening to me. So, I am editing out the less important things to make sure I have time for the most valuable things.
When you speak you are competing for the listener's attention. I attended a banquet put on by a non-profit organization to explain their projects. They had too many people spending too long explaining why the group was important to them. By the time the last speaker began talking, I was tired of listening. I didn't think about his message because I was too busy thinking about how I could sneak out without attracting attention.
Often variety show introductions have too many words. The audience is interested only in what you are going to do at this moment. A long speech delays your start. You should give an emcee an introduction that you make sure you have edited down so it is meaningful. Otherwise they may ramble.
How can you eliminate unnecessary words? How can you determine which ones are important? How can you edit out the others?