The difference between snowshoes and writing

You probably know how snowshoes work: They distribute your body weight over a wide area, so it’s not concentrated in any one spot. As a result, they let you glide over the snow without your foot sinking down the way it would if you were wearing, say, stiletto heels. With the wider shoes, you move more easily, and your footprints aren’t as deep.

That wider surface area of a snowshoe is ideal for walking in the woods on a winter’s evening; it’s not so great for writing.

The more words you use when writing, the more you’re spreading your idea over a wide surface — rather than a blanket of snow, the surface in this case is your page. The more you write, the less impact any individual word has on your reader. Instead, pack the weight of your ideas into a smaller area.

Start by eliminating filler words. “I hope that you get off of that polar bear” is weaker than “I hope you get off that polar bear,” or even “Get off that polar bear.”

Then use active verbs instead of passive ones to further trim your sentences; shorten “My hand was eaten by a polar bear” to “A polar bear ate my hand.” There! You’ve just cut an 8-word sentence down to 6, and when explaining to the Denali National Park ranger what’s wrong, every second counts.

And when trying to keep a reader’s fleeting attention, every word counts. So ditch the verbal snowshoes and strap on a pair of stilettos to really make a deeper impact on your reader.

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