Five Words and Two Numbers

“The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

In my college journalism classes, I learned the importance of saying what you mean in as few words as possible. Doing so results in a story that is both shorter and stronger.

Choosing exactly the right word, instead of several nearly right ones, takes skill and a good vocabulary, which probably explains why many writers don’t bother.

I appreciate it when an author does, and for many years, would cite Hemingway’s “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” as the perfect example. These six words seemed to be human tragedy concentrated into its purest form.

But a few days ago, in my copy of The Week, I read about this note, which floated down from the towers on 9/11.

“84th floor
West Office
12 people trapped”

It took my breath away. Then I read further and learned that the writer was identified but a dark spot on the paper which proved to be a drop of his blood.

Hemingway’s talent suddenly seems trivial.

Read the story in its entirety (a scant two pages) at

English: New York, NY, September 28, 2001 -- D...

English: New York, NY, September 28, 2001 — Debris on surrounding roofs at the site of the World Trade Center. Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo Français : Débris sur les toits entourant le site du World Trade Center. 28 Septembre 2001. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About kymlucas

"Taking care not to take love too seriously." Writer of smart, fresh, contemporary romance and women's fiction. Blogging about writing, reading, and more recently, dealing with the ins and outs of breast cancer.
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