[MUSIC] Welcome back after the rigors of nouns and verbs. This is the third segment, the third week in our four week course on the craft of style. And this week we're going to talk about economy. You remember that in the comment section from last week I asked you to come up with one word, just one word, to describe your experience. One word, getting it down to just one word. Is a great segue into the main subject of what we're going to be talking about this week, and that is economy, all right. The question of economy is the question usually of cutting things out. Why do you want to cut things out? Well, to be honest I think the first reason is humor. You remember what William Shakespeare said about this, or a character in Hamlet said about it that brevity is the soul of whit. Some of you may remember the American President Calvin Coolidge, who is nicknamed Silent Cal because of his ability to keep things really, really, really brief. One time he was coming out of a church and a reporter asked him what the sermon had been about. Coolidge said sin, and the reporter said, well, what did he say about it? And Coolidge said, he said he was a Ginnit. [LAUGH] And another story famous about Coolidge. He was approached by someone at a cocktail party who said, I bet that person over there, I couldn't get you to say three words. And Coolidge answered, you lose. A single extra word ruins all the fun. I learned a lot about this from a friend of mine, the novelist Sarah Braunstein, whose work you might have read in The New Yorker. I've also read her novel, the sweet relief of missing children. She had this great talent of telling a story and stopping directly, directly at the climax. What's the effect of that? well the impact of the story then rests in you, the reader, or you the listener and she doesn't stop, she doesn't continue and explain anything so that you immediately start to pick everything up behind her and that's a lot of the fun of whit. All right, the second reason to cut irresistibility. That might sound like a complicated word to describe this but let me tell you what I'm getting at. Here's a line from the Irish poet, W.B. Yeats. Yeats said, only that which does not teach, which does not cry out, which does not condescend, which does not explain, is irresistible. Isn't that great? Let's focus on what things he wants us not to do, which does not teach. What's the problem with teaching? Well, nothing, except that we're trying to tell a story, and remember a story is an imitation of an action, of an experience. And when you adopt the position with your reader of trying to tell them something, to change something about their ideas in the world, that's not exactly the way that experience presents itself to us in real life. What's the problem with crying out? Well, that's histrionics, right? That's emotion that goes overboard, and that's obviously not where you want to be. You want to bring the reader to the place where her own emotions are crying out and, oddly, you have to do that by sometimes raining your own emotion at least in terms of your word choice back in. Finally, condescending. What's the problem with condescending? Well, none of us like to feel as though we are being condescended to, and very few of us really know when we are condescending. It can often take a strange form in stories that's not exactly the same as it might take in a piece of journalism. You might, if you're writing for a newspaper, feel perfectly obliged sometimes to underscore a piece of factual information. That the reader needs in order to make the story work. Well, in a piece of fiction very often, you have to act as though the reader knows things that he or she might not actually know. It's sometimes better to act that way to err on the side of assuming more factual information on behalf of the reader than they might actually have. It's almost always a mistake to do something, to say something like, Paris comma the capital of France in the middle of a story. The question is, what creates irresistibility? In some way, a writer who is looking directly at you, and believes that you know just as much as she does, and maybe more. That kind of reader/writer experience is very often irresistible. And the third reason to cut is clarity. All right, let's put all of this to use with an example.