W is for waffle

W is for waffle

Don’t waste your reader’s time on pointless digression

Waffle should be avoided (but waffles should not be).

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the act of waffling as to “speak or write at length in a vague or trivial manner”. It is, by definition, incompatible with good content, which should have purpose and insight.

Rambling or unnecessarily lengthy writing can leave its readers unclear about the key messages. And that’s on the rather charitable assumption that they see it through to the end. People are short of time. Don’t waste it.

The key to waffle-dodging is planning. Have the key points you want to make and the structure you will use in your head before starting. It is much easier to avoid padding and detours if your path is clearly defined.

Clarify your purpose. What do you want the reader to know and do? Identify the most important messages to share. You should then know roughly where you will start and end up; and what you will say along the way. It can be helpful to plan sub-headings and fit your key messages around them.

When you do start writing, keep sentences and paragraphs to sensible lengths. (See F for full stop for more on this.)

This is not to say there is no place for personality, anecdotes and detail. Some of these are welcome, perhaps even vital. The aim is not writing by numbers. Just be sure that key points are not obscured and that extras bring something to the party.

Finally, edit your work. Waffle can creep in when you are trying to fill a page, and is often easier to spot with hindsight.

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Giulia Rhodes
Giulia Rhodes