Saturday, September 19, 2015

Lean In

Businesses sink billions into "designing out waste" and "building lean in," but spend nothing to discourage verbosity.

They'd do their bottom lines a big favor by sending every employee the link to John McPhee's latest article in The New Yorker, "Omission."

McPhee clarifies why lean writing is good writing: it's what's left out that counts.

Lean writing comes from heavy editing, which McPhee compares to shortening a train. 

"The idea is to remove words in such a manner that no one would notice that anything has been removed," he says. "It’s as if you were removing freight cars here and there in order to shorten a train—or pruning bits and pieces of a plant for reasons of aesthetics."

Not only editors, but artists, designers and comedians understand that, always, less is more.

Hemingway called it the Iceberg Theory:

"If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”
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