Conciseness

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Noto Emoji Oreo 1f4c4.svg This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.
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This page in a nutshell: Users should strive to write concisely.

Users can benefit the community and themselves by being succinct through time savings, increased readership of commentary, and better conformity to 7 C's standards.

Conciseness offers the opportunity to save readers valuable time. The average American, in one minute, can read 250-300 words,[1] approximately the number of words that can fit one page, according to standard manuscript word count estimates used by professional editors. Time is money, and the total opportunity cost of 30 editors reading one page of commentary, if the readers' labor is worth the present U.S. minimum wage, is approximately $2.92. In other words, assuming I have a few extra dimes in my pocket, I could have bought 15 chicken nuggets from Wendy's (assuming a dollar menu price of $1/five-piece nuggets) with the liquidated opportunity cost incurred by that commentary.

Closely related to these concepts is the potential for conciseness to increase readership. Many readers wish to weigh in on AfDs, talk page discussions, and so on, but are unwilling to accept the opportunity cost of reading lengthy commentary. Having budgeted only a certain amount of time to becoming informed on a particular item, and the estimated time required to read the commentary appearing to exceed that budget, the traversal of their personal decision tree in reference to that article cannot include the subtrees that are only reachable by reading everything. So, they must travel down a route which leads them to a node whose only children are two leaves: (1) make a decision without the information provided by the commentary, or (2) abstain from participating. Neither of these outcomes is optimal for achieving the commentary-writer's goals, which presumably are to influence readers in a way that will ultimately improve the encyclopedia.

An argument could be raised that users are free to read or disregard commentary as they please. So, let us consider the possibility that the reader overrides the self-imposed restraint on time and reads it. Could it be that in some circumstances, the outcome the commentary was designed to achieve is not worth the cost of diverting editors' time from other tasks to reading unnecessarily non-succinct commentary?

Along with correctness, clarity, completeness, concreteness, consideration, and courtesy, conciseness is one of the seven C's of effective communication.[2] Some tips for doing this include focusing on the message, avoiding useless information and lengthy explanations; being clear and avoid long phrases; use plain language (i.e. simple and straight language tools); staying simple (if a metaphoric explanation is desired, perhaps the most readily-understandable and applicable rendering of an indirect comparison of this concept is, "Do not use trees – you will lose your path in the forest"); illustrating, rather than explaining; and using active voice.

It is important that in your voyage across the ocean of persuasive writing, you remember to sail ALL of the seven C's.

References[edit]

  1. "User Interface Design Update". Human Factors International, Inc. 2000-08.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. Note: Some sources, such as [1], mention an eighth C, candidness. However, this kinda wrecks the whole seven C's pun. Accordingly, it would be better to consider the concept of candidness as fully encompassed by the broader framework of ethical principles implicitly falling under the penumbra of the original 7 C's, which would render its separate enumeration superfluous.