Enforced Brevity

Of all the websites that regularly feature in the world’s most visited lists, can any be more frustrating than the BBC’s?

Its News (& associated Sport) output is not only such a missed opportunity, but also contributes to the dumbing down of information more than any other source. Bereft of comment and context, shorn of bite and sting, each time I logon I feel disappointment with myself for wasting that precious time on there.

During one such distraction, I clicked through an item written by an editor on how they were tweaking their site. His main point was that headlines were, in the main, written to suit two platforms; the web and Ceefax (the text service through the telly). The technical restrictions of the latter meant that all headlines had to be between 31 and 33 characters in length.

My interest was further tickled when he went on to almost apologise for this, yet justified it by adding that it seemed any story could be summed up in such constraints.

Any news item? Summed up in only 31-33 characters? I re-checked the site. And to my amazement, I found that it was actually quite unnecessary to click on any headline, as each one really did give all the gist you needed to know.

Anyone writing bullets, or headings, or presentation slides would do well to heed this message. Even with today’s Twitter-induced brevity, why stumble along for even 140 characters, when your point could well be made in just 33?

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