Back when I was at Sports Illustrated, I remember Gary Smith talking about making every word count. Meaning, don’t throw any words away in a story—even if and as and and and but. Make sure they’re exactly what you’re trying to say.
It’s a hard philosophy to follow—one I aim for, but usually fall short.
Today I was reading the New York Times’ sports section. Just browsing through the NFL Week 3 Matchups. Came across this, written by Mike Tanier:
Redskins (1-1) at Rams (0-2)
The Redskins released Larry Johnson during the week. That leaves them with one socially embarrassing loudmouth running back, Clinton Portis, who is averaging 3.1 yards per carry when not setting gender relations back 500 years. Portis is a Dan Snyder favorite, so he is not going anywhere, even though his handoffs are also not going anywhere.
This might sound silly, but that paragraph is friggin’ brilliant. Not a word wasted, not a thought delayed. Tanier says everything that needs to be said within a span of 100-and-something words. It’s funny yet factual; dead-on and informative. Love it.
People tend to think writing, oh, 5,000 words is hard. Which is can be. But sometimes writing 200 words is even harder.