“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― C.G. Jung
Amen to that, Carl, and to prove your point, I will confess that, as maddening as it is to find myself trapped in a conversation with someone who rambles on and on, I know that I, too, can be guilty of telling a story that lasts longer than it should. And woe to the friend or client who receives one of my lengthy, caffeine-fueled e-mails early in the morning. Well, (shrug)…what can I say? I’m awesome. I can’t restrict my amazing ideas to something as pedestrian as “word count” or respect for the reader’s free time and patience. As if!
Still, this is something I should work on. As a person who is sometimes paid to write, I should practice a general rule of thumb: shorter is better. Another awesome writer once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” That’s Shakespeare, ya know. Did I just reference my own scribblings in the same breath as one of history’s greatest writers? Yes, I did. Did I say my work is on par with his? ’Course not! (Although, if he and I ever cross paths, someday, in The Great Beyond, I might offer the respectful suggestion—one “Bill” to another—that his “jokes” leave something to be desired in the department of Being Hilarious.)
Self-improvement is a lifelong journey, so, starting today, I’m titling this blog, “The Billy 500,” and I vow to write no entry that exceeds 500 words, which is still quite a lot, but, hey…baby steps.
Okay, so! Day One of the new me. I have 224 words remaining, and I know just how I’m going to use them. As long as we’re making corrections—to ourselves and to others—there’s an English language mistake I hear much too frequently. Since I can’t blurt this out in a meeting to a client, I’m blurting it out here.
The correct phrase is “to flesh out an idea.” You don’t “flush out an idea.” Oy! I’ve heard plenty of ideas that should be “flushed,” yes, but when you’re discussing the beginnings of an idea, it’s not fully formed, right? It’s still a framework. It’s skeletal. As you discuss it and improve it, you’re filling in the details and adding meat to the idea. You’re fleshing…it…out!
If you’re guilty of this way-too-common mistake…well, don’t be too hard on yourself. Hey, I’m not perfect! I misspeak all the time. I used to say, “eck-cetera,” until my lovely wife (help-mate that she is) smacked me on the back of the head and said, “It’s et-cetera!” I paused and thought, “Well, I’ll be damned. So it is!” I was saying it wrong well into my 40s!
Let’s make a deal. I’ll keep it to 500 words, and you stop saying “flush out an idea.” And feel free to check back often. I have all kinds of pointers and corrections for you that I’m sure you’ll appreciate!