RE: extra words: unnecessary or educational?

Subject: RE: extra words: unnecessary or educational?
From: HRoosild -at- QuadraMed -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2003 09:21:30 -0400

This thread reminds me of the concept of "pace" that an MIT professor
presented at MIT's week-long Tech Comm seminar many, many years ago.

As best I understand it, "pace" in writing means how much information is
being transferred by a given phrase, sentence, or paragraph. So, for
example, a compact, tightly constructed paragraph conveys a lot more
information with fewer words than a loosely constructed (and longer)
version. However, the likelihood that the reader may miss some information
is greater for the more compact version. [NOTE: I am assuming _well_ written
paragraphs for both instances.]

So, yes, sometimes extra words can dilute the information transfer pace and
can be a good thing.

As with everything, of course, you need to set the pace to suit your

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Gooch [mailto:chris -dot- gooch -at- lightworkdesign -dot- com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 27, 2003 7:14 AM
Subject: RE: extra words: unnecessary or educational?

Pamela wrote:

Maybe this is "learning theory stuff." I'm not sure how to articulate my

If deleting words from a sentence doesn't change meaning, is there ever a
reason to keep them? I say yes. "Extra words" can facilitate quick

I don't think it's learning theory stuff, more like
communication theory stuff. The extra words are
redundancy in the signal; redundant elements of a signal
can help to overcome noise. The trick is to add useful
redundancy without a) increasing noise or b) increasing
signal length too much. In other words, the
message/sentence should be "short enough, but no shorter".
"Noise" in the context of people reading instructions,
is introduced by the reader skim reading / not paying attention,
thinking they know what you're saying without reading it,
your prose being unclear / contradictory, etc.

Another example of using redundancy in human communication
is the old army maxim of "tell them what you're gonna tell them,
tell them, and then tell them what you've told them".

hth, Chris.

Christopher Gooch, Technical Author
LightWork Design, Sheffield, UK.

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