Radio 4 covered the The Six Word Memoir competition, inspired by Earnest Hemingway’s wager he could tell a complete story in just six words. He deliciously delivered “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” earning him $10.
Expressing a life story in six words is just as tricky. Some of my favorite submissions include:
Found true love, married someone else.
Work smart. Love what you do.
A limit on words means getting straight to the point – Twitter’s 140 character limit results in short useful extracts.
Short succinct messages require more thought, careful editing and of course time. Getting the balance right between losing important information and the laws of diminishing returns takes practice and is very dependent upon the mix and size of your audience.
As a developer I find these skills applicable to the following areas:
I’m not the world’s most prolific blogger but my posts tend to be short and to the point. If you didn’t find it interesting you should have realized quite quickly.
Being well-written and interesting gives a better chance of being added to StumbleUpon, Digg or other blogs.
My latest presentation on LINQ consisted of around 20 logically-grouped slides with a few bullet points and tiny code samples.
I saved time by not writing a script and let the talk flow more naturally with interaction from the audience. This meant the audience chose the programming language and I broke into demos once they looked anxious to see it.
My own projects change design dramatically during prototyping thanks to refactoring and the great tools available. It is for this reason I do not practice test-driven development.
I need my code and design to be as succinct as possible at this phase. Unused code, interfaces or stubs are wasted words. Verbosity. Declarations that are read and compiled but not used. Verbosity.
Once the overall design is settled the unit tests and fleshing out of functionality comes.
Where extensibility is needed I work with those who will consume it to ensure the interface does what is required and nothing more. Three consumers is quoted as the magic number.
If anyone has any tips, informative articles or recommended books on succinct writing please leave them here.
Now if only I could get this post down to six words…