Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On the Value of Short Words, and a Give-Away

courtesy google images
"There is a story that an American general once asked Churchill to look over the draft of an address he had written. It was returned with the comment: 'Too many passives and too many zeds.' The general asked him what he meant, and was told: 'Too many Latinate polysyllabics like systematize, prioritize and finalize. And then the passives. What if I had said, instead of 'We shall fight on the beaches,' 'Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter'?'"   --Winston Churchill (source)

Short words vs. long words (monosyllabic vs. polysyllabic): they both have their place, of course, but often--as Winston Churchill, Britain's great leader and prime minister during WWII, so artfully displayed--the scale of good communication tips more toward the punchiness and action of short words as opposed to the more flowery, lofty nature of long ones. Do you agree?

George Orwell weighed in on the subject, too: "Never use a long word where a short one will do. Never use the passive where you can use the active."

As mentioned in an earlier post (here), I answered a call to write for an anthology in which the main criteria was that we were to write in only one syllable words (with a few exceptions like prepositions, proper names, and words for family). Writing for this volume was not only rewarding in that my piece was accepted for the collection, but because the challenge itself provided opportunity to stretch the writing muscles in a different way. 

Thus, I'm happy to share in the good news that the book is out! The Short and Sweet of It, When the Right Word is a Short Word, compiled and edited by Susan Cheeves King (Grace Publishing, Broken Arrow OK 2018). As an anthology of inspirational pieces, the book is designed to encourage and uplift the reader. From the back cover: "How do we say more with less? Can short, simple words make what we write so clear that the reader gets it? Or will it remind them of reading a child's board book? The truth is, short words bring power because they are easy to read, easy to grasp, and easy to recall...In this book, the third in the Short and Sweet series, you'll find a collection of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry on a variety of topics. They have two things in common: Each is about something that matters deeply to the writer, and with few exceptions, each is written using only one-syllable words or words of fewer than six letters. If you've always thought writers have to use long words to keep readers engaged, discover why it's often a great idea to keep it Short and Sweet."

Short and Sweet! Maybe you'd like to take a peek between the covers and see what a few writers have done with a few short words. And so a give-away! I will send a copy out to a commenter-chosen-by-random. All you have to do is comment here by May 28, at which time I will do a random drawing and send a copy out to that person. Just leave a contact email so that I can be in touch to get your address :-)

Who knows, maybe then, too, you will be inspired to see just how far a few short words can go!

And here, a bonus of extra words of wisdom from Winston Churchill. See if any of these quotes stir you on to more words of your own, too--or maybe simply be an encouragement for the moment:  

  • "Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."
  • "Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."
  • "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy then an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then it becomes a tyrant and, in the last stage, just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public."
  • "All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour; duty; mercy; hope."
  • "It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time."
  • "Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge."
  • "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it's also what it takes to sit down and listen."
  • "Continuous effort--not strength or intelligence--is the key to unlocking our potential."



  1. Kenda - Sorry I didn't see this sooner. I've been out of town.

    Congratulations! This sounds like a great book! As someone who spends hours every day looking for the perfect word (and often ending up with one that is too long and has to be redone), I really appreciate the premise. Not to mention the effort you must have expended. Bravo!

    Of the quotes above, I like the first one best. Writing is a lot like a journey. It often seems like I'll never get to the end, but I'm loving the process. I also like the one about failure not being fatal. For writers, a rejection can seem like a failure, though it isn't. If we have the "courage to continue," we may still succeed. At the very least, we can enjoy the process a little longer!

    Great post - and many more congratulations!

    1. And thanks to you, Peggy, for all your support and encouragement :-) And like you, some of Churchill's quotes spoke to me, too. One that especially resonated with me is the last one--it's continuous effort that unlocks potential, not necessarily strength or intelligence. Whoa, how appropriate is that for a writer?? Let's not give up but, as you say, love the process as we go...Hope your trip out of town was fun and hope the upcoming week is a good one for you, too :-)

  2. Hi Kenda, Congrats and I apologize for seeming to take so long to notice your post. I had replied earlier through Feedly, and then discovered recently that it never showed up on your blog, when accessing it directly from the internet. Hope this works!

    Although I am having my doubts, as the comment panel is truncated and without a slider. Problem is on my end. Again, congrats!

    1. Thanks, Cathy--and so glad to see you, although in such a round-about way :-) Oh, the frustrations as well as the benefits to this internet stuff! I appreciate you trying again, and getting through this time. Always nice to hear from you. Hope all is well over your way, and that you have a nice holiday weekend ahead...