Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Precision of the Precis

Today I will be cutting the last 2700 words from the 15,000 I was asked to cut from a document twice that length. And I would like to salute, once again, Miss Booker: my high school English teacher who taught me not only that it is perfectly reasonable to have enough high heels never to repeat a pair over a two-week period; not only that rich people used to carry around perfumed hankies not to show off but because nobody ever took a bath; but how to write a precis.

It's one of the most common editing jobs I do. I do it every day on this blog, even.

It's fascinating to me that in cutting 12,300 words so far, I've cut next to no content. It was fascinating to me that during SummerCamp, when one of our workshoppers had her incredibly beautiful closing paragraph cut to an incredibly beautiful and strikingly powerful sentence, how much was gained through what was lost.

There is always a tighter way to say something if you take the time to find it. And if there's one thing we procrastinating types like, it's taking the time.

1 comment:

Karen said...

...and speaking only for me, part of the thrill of the cut is knowing that I'm getting paid to do it!

By the way, I like your English teacher's shoe theory. Must get on that.