18 votes

On verbosity

I like to talk, I used to talk quite a bit more, but I still talk... a lot. I was always told I was a smart kid when I was young, and I always felt I had a lot to contribute. I honestly don't feel like I'm that smart anymore, even though I still feel that I have much to contribute. I'm not autistic or special needs, I don't feel I have any reason to ramble so much. I'm often told I'm not rambling, people insist they like to listen, I don't believe them.

While in real life I've learned to pipe down, the internet is a different beast. The internet allows me to check myself more easily before I speak; I can fact check. There's a larger filter in that the submit button is a physical barrier, vs my cognitive ability to filter myself. There is feedback from internet communities that you don't normally get in social settings, I guess the submit button isn't as much as a barrier for some people. Due to these reasons, I can take my time to form a position and a statement. This leads to the entire thought process landing in the reply box. I don't mean to come off as /r/iamverysmart material, it's just how my brain works.

My worry is that my verbosity turns people off to my conversations and ideas, to me as a person. How many people have gotten to a thread or a forum post and seen a wall of text and just backed out? TL;DR is a thing for a reason I guess. How many times have you seen somebody ramble on about something, unable to notice that the other person in their conversation (who is now more of a prisoner than a participant) has just tuned out?

I don't know, just a rant I guess, I've got some stuff I'm procrastinating from.

EDIT: s/attribute/contribute/

19 comments

  1. [6]
    kfwyre
    Link
    Hey friend! You are in good company here. I'm someone who regularly writes long comments. Like, really long comments. It's how I process things. I enjoy writing them. I enjoy others reading them....

    Hey friend! You are in good company here.

    I'm someone who regularly writes long comments. Like, really long comments. It's how I process things. I enjoy writing them. I enjoy others reading them. Elsewhere online there's a pretty strong allergy to long content, but Tildes is the most accommodating community I've ever been in with regard to attention span and patience. I never get comments about being too wordy or verbose, and even if that's just people not saying anything to me out of politeness, I still appreciate it.

    Admittedly, long posts aren't great for conversation. They give a lot, are hard to respond to, and if they occur in the middle of a conversation, they can feel like a massive text/idea dump that bulldozes the person you're responding to. I try to make my biggest comments either top-level ones or answers to direct questions in order to minimize this feeling in others, but I'm sure there are people on here who've felt steamrolled by one of my ultra-long missives (sorry!).

    Just because they're not great for conversation doesn't mean they're not great to share though, as online forums aren't just conversations but a bigger sort of shared public processing. You're not just writing to one person on here when you respond, you're writing to an audience, and you're also writing something that can be responded to by anyone. Sometimes you're writing for yourself, but sharing that with others carries value as well. Conversational norms and expectations don't entirely apply in spaces like this because of those fundamental structural differences.

    Modern life and the internet put a high premium on efficiency and immediacy. I feel this pull when I load up a YouTube video and there's an unnecessary 10 second intro. Just get to the content! I'm yelling in my head. Impatience is widespread. This can make it seem like shorter or less verbose comments are better, and sometimes they are. But not always. Writing is also a long-form activity. It's can be slower and less immediate. It can let you pull on a thread to unravel a knot, a process that's delicate and time-consuming. Concise writing can also lack flair, zest, or verve. Its points are more direct, sure, but that clarity can come at the cost of truths that are less precise and more intangible, less understood and more felt. Writing can be beautiful in and of itself. It can be beautiful for how it chooses to say something or how it connects or highlights certain ideas. Or it can be beautiful in its elegant simplicity. All of these are valid and have their places because they all serve different functions and audiences.

    Tildes, more than most places online, seems to have a high tolerance for verbosity, and I'll do my best to help keep it that way! I'm someone who writes not to be concise or even to be clear most of the time. Instead, I often try to bring someone along with me for a little trip. I want my reader to sit shotgun while I drive. I'll point out certain things along the way, hoping they'll notice them as I see them, all while I'm wondering what different perspective they might be viewing them with.

    Readers, too, are bringing me on their own trip. After all, words are a way of creating thoughts in readers' minds. That's a powerful and wonderful thing. By reading these right now you've invited me into your thoughts. Thank you for letting me take up space there. As a visitor here I'll try to treat your thoughts with respect and kindness. I don't want to waste your time and overstay my welcome, but I don't want you to think that I'm rushing out, either. Writing and reading are asynchronous intimacy. I spend time with my words, to make them say what I want them to say. Others read them, spending time with my words themselves, recreating my craftsmanship in their own minds and evaluating it with their own eyes. I always want to leave readers with something resonant, important, or interesting. It's a privilege to have your words read. How wonderful is it that we can so easily share ourselves and our thoughts with others and, in turn, have ourselves be so easily understood, heard, and considered.

    There are plenty of other places online for short posts. Those have their place. Homes for longer ones are much fewer and far between, however. I joined Tildes partially because its priorities shifts the balance back in my favor, on the side of more words over fewer. Meanwhile, because communities are what we make them, I try to uphold my part of that contract, by posting the types of things here I'd love to see from others. I welcome long posts. I welcome wordiness and meandering thoughts. Some people walk as a means to an end: to get to some place necessary. But some people walk for the journey it takes them on, or because the act of walking is enjoyable or meaningful to them. So it is with writing.

    What this means is that you should feel free to be your wordy self here. Write in the way that you want to and that's most meaningful to you. Reflect on and develop that skill over time. Find out when it's worth being short and straightforward versus when to meander a bit or take a bit of a longer stroll.

    Oh, and know that you're in good company here. A lot of us like to stroll too.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      With longer content, I tend to skim, and that includes longer comments here. It's not a bad thing though. I noticed that taking the first sentence of each paragraph works pretty well for this...

      With longer content, I tend to skim, and that includes longer comments here. It's not a bad thing though. I noticed that taking the first sentence of each paragraph works pretty well for this post, which I guess means it's well structured. :)

      6 votes
      1. tomf
        Link Parent
        there is little more I appreciate more than a tldr;

        there is little more I appreciate more than a tldr;

        2 votes
    2. [2]
      culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      It's so funny how our minds work. I think I'm the total opposite - I process mentally and I get annoyed writing things out because it often feels like an artificial speed limit on my thoughts. I...

      I'm someone who writes not to be concise or even to be clear most of the time. Instead, I often try to bring someone along with me for a little trip. I want my reader to sit shotgun while I drive. I'll point out certain things along the way, hoping they'll notice them as I see them, all while I'm wondering what different perspective they might be viewing them with.

      It's so funny how our minds work. I think I'm the total opposite - I process mentally and I get annoyed writing things out because it often feels like an artificial speed limit on my thoughts. I rarely feel I need the clarity writing things down brings, only when I'm dealing with very complex or abstract ideas that I'm totally unfamiliar with. In fact, a big part of why I end up trying not to get too invested in conversations I have online is because writing replies takes me forever, due to me simultaneously writing my current point five thoughts behind where I'm at in my head and editing how I phrase things to find a way that flows naturally. I can't help but visualize it like I'm trying to shove ever more heaping mounds of sand through a funnel, and everything just bottlenecks.

      I've had relationships with people who are writers like yourselves, and it seems way too tiring for me. Just writing these seven or eight sentences took me more than 10 minutes and about four semi-drafts. I admire you all to no end, though.

      6 votes
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Thanks! Writing is fundamentally energizing to me. I enjoy the process, which I think is what keeps it from reaching the "way too tiring" state. My husband feels similarly to you about writing,...

        Thanks! Writing is fundamentally energizing to me. I enjoy the process, which I think is what keeps it from reaching the "way too tiring" state. My husband feels similarly to you about writing, and what helps me understand this perspective is that cooking is his writing. He loves to do it. I, meanwhile, find cooking to be a laborious chore, even if I do like the end result (good food). He gets a joy from the act of cooking and baking that's similar to what I get from writing. Meanwhile, each of us looks at the other's interest with some confusion.

        2 votes
    3. rogue_cricket
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I am more of a "medium/short comment" person but I agree the main measure of success should be in line with the intention of the comment - whether the length and style of the comment reflects what...

      I am more of a "medium/short comment" person but I agree the main measure of success should be in line with the intention of the comment - whether the length and style of the comment reflects what you want to achieve with it.

      I find if you want to have a discussion and you've got people posting massive comments followed-up with massive comments, each individual post kind of gets spread into trying to grasp at and respond to multiple ideas. It becomes trickier to maintain an internal thread of focus or coherency as each "part" of each comment almost becomes its own mini-discussion, at which point why not just have those discussions serially instead of in parallel, you know? (Honestly though, bad short comments can have this problem too.)

      Long comments are also sometimes great, of course! I often really appreciate peoples' insights or explorations or breakdowns or whatever, and I definitely get the idea of using them to sort yourself out along the way. But I'm way more likely to silently vote on those than I am to respond to them because they often feel more like essays than conversations. They're still valuable, but they serve a different purpose.

      5 votes
  2. [5]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    Related anecdote time; An old English teacher of mine used to repeatedly make us run through a writing exercise, which had some simple rules to it. Free write about whatever you want Remove all...

    Related anecdote time; An old English teacher of mine used to repeatedly make us run through a writing exercise, which had some simple rules to it.

    1. Free write about whatever you want
    2. Remove all the superlatives, adjectives, and adverbs
    3. Remove as many words as you can without losing your original intent or weakening your arguments
    4. Repeat step 3 until you are satisfied it's as concise as possible

    Granted, that technique is generally meant to be applied to essays and academic papers, since without any superlatives, adjectives, or adverbs, creative and personal writing can be rather dry. However, in my opinion (unnecessary, self evident!) it's still a great (superlative!) exercise that can really (adverb!) help you get better at writing more(adverb!) concisely. ;)

    p.s. The only downside to having that exercise drilled into my head is that I am now a habitual editor of my own comments on social media... which can probably be annoying to people who are in the process of replying to me. I do try my best to stop editing, other than fixing spelling mistakes, as soon as someone replies to me though, so as not to confuse others or act in bad faith.

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      Pistos
      Link Parent
      Me too. For pretty much every comment or post, on any site, I read it beginning to end at least once before submitting. If I edit any paragraph, I re-read that paragraph. If I've edited any...

      I am now a habitual editor of my own comments on social media

      Me too. For pretty much every comment or post, on any site, I read it beginning to end at least once before submitting. If I edit any paragraph, I re-read that paragraph. If I've edited any paragraph(s) (which is almost always the case for anything longer than a tweet), I re-read beginning to end again. When I do these read-overs, I do it in Preview mode, if the site has such a thing, so I can see what I've written with full formatting applied, links linkified, etc.

      After I have submitted, I usually read it over again, in the context of the thread (if any). About as often as not, I catch something, or just want to improve my wording, and I employ the Edit feature the site provides, to change my writing even after submission. Sometimes I even re-read my writing after the thread as progressed (with other replies), and, occasionally, I'll edit then, too, if the site hasn't blocked that action due to comment age.

      Perhaps I'm narcissistic; perhaps I'm obsessed; perhaps I'm just plain abnormal. I'm not sure, and I'm not sure I care. :)

      5 votes
      1. krg
        Link Parent
        I do much the same and I imagine many people do. It's craftsmanship. As much as these postings mean little, they still pose an opportunity to flex some creative muscle. People who pore over their...

        I do much the same and I imagine many people do. It's craftsmanship. As much as these postings mean little, they still pose an opportunity to flex some creative muscle. People who pore over their posts care about aesthetics. Same as looking at yourself in the mirror before you head out and making sure your tie is on straight.

        ... I don't wear ties, but I imagine people do that.

        7 votes
    2. precise
      Link Parent
      I recall having an English teacher teach us something similar. I just remember draft after draft after draft haha. I didn't have a printer or computer, but I did have lots of hand cramps. Maybe...

      I recall having an English teacher teach us something similar. I just remember draft after draft after draft haha. I didn't have a printer or computer, but I did have lots of hand cramps. Maybe I'll add this technique more to future writings, thanks!

      2 votes
    3. Moonchild
      Link Parent
      —Fred Brooks

      Ken [Iverson] taught me some useful productions: If it’s a clause, turn it into a phrase. If it’s a phrase, turn it into an adjective or an adverb. If it’s an adjective or an adverb, omit it. And you apply these recursively.

      —Fred Brooks

      2 votes
  3. [6]
    UniquelyGeneric
    Link
    TL;DR You can be as verbose as you want if people are into it. Most of the time people don't have the time or care, so it's best to be succinct. It's a skill that is learned over time, but...

    TL;DR You can be as verbose as you want if people are into it. Most of the time people don't have the time or care, so it's best to be succinct. It's a skill that is learned over time, but requires self-awareness.

    So it was my birthday recently and my friends played on skribble.io where the general theme was about me. Everyone got to submit their own phrases to be included in the guessing game and by far and away the most frequent submission was "ramble". Other keyphrases were "the point is", "anyways", and "actually".

    I knew I tend to ramble in conversation (particularly with a few drinks in me), but I don't tend to notice it when it's happening. I can tell when people lose interest, but if I've started down a story, I feel compelled to complete it (I have been told I'm a good story teller, but that might be related to my gesticulations and energy while telling it). I think it's more obvious when I post on Tildes and re-read my comment to realize that I didn't keep as coherent an argument as I felt while trying to get my thoughts out.

    That being said, I tend to get bored of other people's stories very easily, and then it's such a chore to feign interest. I know this must be what it feels like to be on the other side of the equation, but I like to think I'm cutting down my stories to the essential details, or tailoring them to my audience, but perhaps that's easier said than done (pun unintended). I do tend to rant on certain topics that I find interesting or important, but these tend to be polarizing, so I mostly keep them to my close friends (who can put up with my long-winded speeches at this point).

    I've also been told that I'm great at explaining topics, and that I should consider being a teacher (I was a tutor at one point), so I'm not sure the friendly roasting is emblematic of a problem I need to address. Perhaps there's just a time and place to be verbose, and I think I can recognize when I should keep my words to myself. This is exacerbated when I'm in a situation where I don't know the people, or am unfamiliar with the topic, in which case the worst of my introversion comes out and people ask me why I'm not talking. Can't win them all, I guess.

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      Atvelonis
      Link Parent
      I'll echo this comment. The way to think about it isn't "how can I make my writing less verbose?" because that's only sometimes the solution. Many communities do have short attention spans, but...

      I'll echo this comment. The way to think about it isn't "how can I make my writing less verbose?" because that's only sometimes the solution. Many communities do have short attention spans, but that's not always the case—/r/AskHistorians, for example, tends to look for a fully detailed map of where information comes from and what it means in explanatory comments. I'll tell you that you should "write with a purpose," but that purpose has to refer to the audience's understanding of your thesis just as much as your understanding of it.

      People will give you all sorts of advice about how to cut down on adverbs or whatever, but these rules only work universally in a vacuum. The reason that formal writing tends to be verbose, especially philosophy, is because it's actually necessary to use more words in order to be precise. With brevity comes ambiguity, so you have to strike a certain balance. Even in an academic context, cutting off all the fat might not technically weaken your argument itself, but depending on the context it has the capacity to make a text cold and robotic.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        To be fair, I did explicitly state that the technique I mentioned is generally meant for essays and academic papers, and that doing so does tend to make your writing feel dry. And heck, I even...

        People will give you all sorts of advice about how to cut down on adverbs or whatever, but these rules only work universally in a vacuum.

        To be fair, I did explicitly state that the technique I mentioned is generally meant for essays and academic papers, and that doing so does tend to make your writing feel dry. And heck, I even broke my own teacher's "rules" immediately afterwards by adding an adverb ("probably") and superlative ("try my best") to the p.s. part and not crossing them out afterwards. ;)

        3 votes
        1. Atvelonis
          Link Parent
          Yes, that's right. I didn't mean to take a swing at your comment, I was just trying to emphasize the "use with caution" part of it. :P

          Yes, that's right. I didn't mean to take a swing at your comment, I was just trying to emphasize the "use with caution" part of it. :P

          2 votes
    2. [2]
      precise
      Link Parent
      Yeah, aside from the birthday part, a lot of this sounds familiar. I'm similar in that if I care about a topic I can go on for hours, maybe the trick is finding people who have similar interests?...

      Yeah, aside from the birthday part, a lot of this sounds familiar. I'm similar in that if I care about a topic I can go on for hours, maybe the trick is finding people who have similar interests? To your last point, I can really relate. One of the worst put downs I ever received was about a year after I transferred to a different school district, it was middle school. I forget what I said, but I'm sure it was off the cuff because my social skills were shit, but this girl said "I liked you better when you didn't talk." Fuck if that still doesn't hurt 10 years later, took me a year to open up my mouth around there only to hear that. Inversely, I learned to shut up often, especially at work. I tend to either keep quiet or keep my more flamboyant thoughts to myself. So when I do speak my mind, even on nothing more than professional conversation, it takes people by surprise. It normally works out, but sometimes a big deal is made of it and it is just really uncomfortable.

      4 votes
      1. culturedleftfoot
        Link Parent
        First off, I love your username :) Anyway, knowing/finding your audience really is half the battle. Anyone who speaks publicly with any kind of regularity will attest that tailoring their...

        First off, I love your username :)

        Anyway, knowing/finding your audience really is half the battle. Anyone who speaks publicly with any kind of regularity will attest that tailoring their expression to engage the interest of "people" in aggregate is really fucking hard. On the other hand, I remember coming across a blog or something of a guy having to do a presentation for Jeff Bezos one afternoon and him realizing that he would have been the umpteenth presenter that Bezos would have listened to drone on that day. He decided to simply omit every third paragraph because he realized JB was smart enough to fill in the gaps himself. He ended up rousing Bezos from his initial glazed-eye boredom to having him engaged and even finishing some of the presenter's sentences.

        I had similar experiences as you with being 'the smart kid' when I was young. Thankfully, I had some experiences that showed me being smart wasn't the end-all be-all of life (I might have become somewhat misanthropic as a side effect, but I digress). I've since strived to listen more than speak, to the extent I've been described as an adult as laconic. In person, I'm often slow to speak because I'm mentally self-editing in pursuit of optimal efficiency. It sometimes results in me having to go back and explain the step-by-step reasoning behind my opinion so my listener can be on the same page. My conversation partner might not be accustomed to thinking in a logical, building-block style, however, and I'm not that great at putting myself in other people's shoes (some leftover misanthropy at work there, I'm working on it), so it ends up taxing both my and their patience. The rare instances that I don't have to clarify anything at all, I make my closest friends.

        I guess the moral of the story is developing empathy will probably help you by letting you figure out where to start and what to edit. Also, to paraphrase Mark Twain, avoid speaking with stupid people.

        6 votes
  4. joplin
    Link
    Is that the main way you communicate? One thing that bugs me about some people's writing style is that not every conversation is a debate, argument, or lesson. I get so much of that style of...

    Due to these reasons, I can take my time to form a position and a statement

    Is that the main way you communicate? One thing that bugs me about some people's writing style is that not every conversation is a debate, argument, or lesson. I get so much of that style of writing on the internet that I get really tired of reading posts in that form. (And I post enough of my own in that style that I get tired of it, too.) You might try different communication styles and see how that works out if you're concerned that you're not achieving your goal in your communication. (Or don't. It's your call.)

    5 votes
  5. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    The issue, to me, is not talking more or talking less. Some people must use more words to make their points. I may not read all your long comments because ADHD is a bitch, but I get that. The...

    The issue, to me, is not talking more or talking less. Some people must use more words to make their points. I may not read all your long comments because ADHD is a bitch, but I get that. The problem is when they are clearly uninterested in what others have to say. In other words: narcissists. If you truly listen, people will be more tolerant of your need to talk in length.

    That said, you might try some exercises in conciseness. After writing something long, read it again and on each sentence or section ask yourself: “do I really need that to make my point?”. If the answer is negative, remove it and adjust the remaining of the text accordingly.

    You could also try using Twitter more, without chains.

    If you’re used to type in the computer, try using your smartphone with the default keyboard. No Swiftkey no dictation, no text expansion.

    Also handwriting! I was recently forced to write on paper and it made me way more careful with my words.

    3 votes