Word Counts

Limits can be a good thing when it comes to creative writing. Amateur free-form poetry often is often prose with random line breaks. Using a set form can help impose rhythm into the poem. Similarly, word counts can help you tighten up a piece, or you can lazily add filler until you hit the count.

My skepticism of the op-ed/political column has grown. It may be too small a place to actual prove anything. When you write something so weak, it has no chance of educating people. Or so I hypothesize. It could just be lazy writing because Hitchens does marvelous things in his columns. (As an aside, this short blog post doesn’t count as too short because it’s part of an entire conversation that is this blog. I can backtrack anytime I want. It lacks the finality of an op-ed.)

Erin recently posted a small philosophy piece on my facebook wall, and I read through it expecting an argument, but never really found one. It sounded like the introduction to a piece, rather than a real piece. Maybe the author was just trying to stimulate conversation? In any case, I think it was too short to truly argue a point.

Another thing I found online was a political column about the census. Normally, I shouldn’t read stuff like this because of my self-imposed traditional media blackout. (I fail at this a lot, by the way.) It contrasts Texas with California:

First, the great engine of growth in America is not the Northeast Megalopolis, which was growing faster than average in the mid-20th century, or California, which grew lustily in the succeeding half-century. It is Texas.

Its population grew 21 percent in the past decade, from nearly 21 million to more than 25 million. That was more rapid growth than in any states except for four much smaller ones (Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho).

Texas’ diversified economy, business-friendly regulations and low taxes have attracted not only immigrants but substantial inflow from the other 49 states. As a result, the 2010 reapportionment gives Texas four additional House seats. In contrast, California gets no new House seats, for the first time since it was admitted to the Union in 1850.

I think if this was a paper I was grading, I would circle the line about Texas’ diversified economy, etc. and write “Evidence?” next to it. I want to surmise that it’s the form of the piece that limits it. The author only offers quick hits on census data, without offering much in the way of argument. Is there not enough room for a proper argument? Or maybe it’s just my natural skepticism about figuring out cause-and-effect that’s makes me demand a higher standard of evidence? Or, again, is it lazy writing?

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