Like many Canadians, my family enjoys maple syrup on a variety of foods: pancakes, French toast, porridge, and even the occasional stir-fry.
Recently, I learned it takes 40 gallons of tree sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. This is because the excess water has to be boiled away to get the rich, woodsy flavor so many love.
Like syrup, writing can be condensed to its sweetest, most powerful elements. Look at the following examples to see what I mean:
“In my view, life is appearing to me like it is too short to always be spent in nursing a sense of animosity or registering a long list of wrongs that have been done.”
Like unrefined sap, this example contains excess volume, detracting from the power of the sentence. Here are some excessive elements I see:
1. Lengthy verbs “is appearing” vs. “appears”
2. Modifiers that add little meaning “always” and “a long list of”
3. An unnecessary opening “In my view”
Look at what happens when the excess is removed:
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
The final result is striking and powerful, and I can’t claim credit for it. It was written by Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre.
The great writers, like Charlotte Bronte, craft memorable sentences because they boil down words to their most powerful elements. Concise writing draws and sustains a reader’s attention.
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I'm an online English teacher and writing consultant.