In junior high a teacher told me I write “like the Apostle Paul.”
This is a very specific parochial school way of saying I like run-on sentences and flowery language.
It is true that I like to use extra words both in speech and writing. One look at the markings left on most of my documents courtesy of the Microsoft Word auto-editor citing “unclear or superfluous language” will prove this point.
There are two reasons I should be slightly concerned by this diagnosis.
- Too many words can keep people from listening
My wife told me recently that she thought of purchasing me a copy of the classic Stephen King novel IT as a gift. (I’d told her how much I liked the recent film reboot.) But then she saw a physical copy of this book and was worried I would not be able to pick it up – let alone read it.
Similarly, my best friends and I still give our buddy Shelby a hard time about the copy of A Suitable Boy he used to keep on his coffee table. It is one of the longest novels ever written in English and the thought of anyone from our group getting more than half-way through it is laughable.
The point is that being long-winded can sometimes be synonymous with being ineffective. For fear of being overwhelmed, I’ve missed out on the delightful tales of a suitable young man and a very unsuitable clown. It is important to make sure you aren’t drowning your audience.
- Too many words can lead to misunderstanding
Want to see how running your mouth can lead to lack of results? Try giving a 6-year-old more than one set of directions at a time. I constantly find myself frustrated by my son’s lack of success at the list of chores I demanded he do – until I realize I set him up to fail.
He – like most people – thrives when given very succinct instructions as opposed to my normal litany of “BRUSH YOUR TEETH/PUT YOUR SHIRT IN THE HAMPER/CLEAN UP YOUR DESK/QUIT SLAPPING YOUR SISTER!!” all at once.
This is all not to say there isn’t a time and place for long sentences and a big vocabulary. But one has to keep in mind that some things should never be communicated with complications.
In celebration of the short and sweet, I’ve compiled a list of a few three-word sentences that should often stand all alone. It’s hard for me to say something so short and shut my mouth, but I have found that when I am able to, it is often to the betterment of my relationships and career.
- I love you. – This is difficult. – I am upset.
- I am sorry. – I am frustrated. – I need sleep.
- You are valuable. – I need help. – Let’s get tacos.