“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.
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 http://theweek.com/article/index/233252/remembering-911-a-message-from-the-south-tower.