Too Long, Didn’t Read

Bob Sevier

Bob Sevier

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I first heard the four letters at a board retreat in the Pacific Northwest.

During the meeting, a number of current students were asked to respond to different publications from the university. When asked about what he thought about the new viewbook, one student responded with “TLDR.” When queried he said, “too long, didn’t read.”

It turns out the TLDR is a term that is often used by people involved in threaded conversations. It is the respondent’s way of saying, “too long to be interesting.” Not quite an insult, TLDR means that the previous posters should consider abbreviating their writing.

As with many things, however, TLDR has migrated from the Internet. This student was using TLDR to pass judgement on a viewbook.

But he is not alone. I asked my son if he was aware of TLDR. He smiled and laughed: “Every time you send me an email, Dad.”

It appears that in a world awash in words (and images and sounds), one powerful communication tool is brevity. Writing short, audiences tell us, goes a long way to more effective communication.

My college writing teacher, Miss Wilson (and yes, it was always “Miss”) understood this. She reminded us constantly to “avoid unnecessary words.”

Emperor Joseph II, in Amadeus, told Mozart that his music had too many notes. “My dear young man, don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It is quality work. (But) there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.”

A commitment to brevity is no easy task.

It will require a higher level of critical thinking on the writer’s part.

It requires that you ruthlessly prioritize and pare away.

It means that you cannot fall in love with the sound of your own words.

The writer/editor/photographer/content creator must be willing to do the work so the reader or viewer or listener does not have to.

Being brief is hard, but the inherent pleasure in and economy of brevity cannot be overlooked.

Perhaps we need to modify the KISS principle. Our goal, instead, is to Keep It Short…

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