How to Write Like Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney: A man of few words.

Following the Nov. 4 death of CBS 60 Minutes essayist Andy Rooney, Seattle Times editorial  praised his commentaries not only for their wit, but also for being a marvel of brevity.

“His ability to craft those commentaries was a special gift,” the editorial read.  “A classic newsroom excuse is ‘I didn’t have time to write short.’ Bright, tight and brilliant is not easy. Andy Rooney spoke volumes in a few dozen words.” 

Writing is hard. Writing short is even harder, and most people don’t have the time to do it right. That adage originates in a quote from Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662), a French philosopher and mathematician who at age 18 invented the first calculating machine. In his Lettres Provinciales (1656, No. 16), a defence of Jansenist doctrine, Pascal wrote, “I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short (Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue parceque je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”

Writing is hard, and writing short is even harder. Not only does it take time, but it also forces you to be critical of your own initial efforts. You may well save yourself time and also get a better finished product if you have someone else polish your words. If you just take enough time to write a first draft, or even a list of major points, an editor can organize and rework your thoughts into a consistent, more persuasive document. It may not end up as witty as an Andy Rooney monolog, but it will look professional and get your points across effectively. Look here for some examples.


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Filed under Commentary, Editing Tips, Writing Tips

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