Musings

A disquisition on disquisitions

Word count per post: 1,135; 2, 1718; 3, 714; 4, 2777; 5, 1671; 6, 3051

If the graph above reported on a stock portfolio, it would be a very happy trend. As you can see, however, it displays the word counts for my first six posts. Interesting pattern, eh? I’m not drawing any major conclusions from this dataset. I’m not even extrapolating to predict the length of my next (i.e., this) post. Instead, I’m taking the opportunity to reflect on my process and goals up to now and how they relate to post length.

So, what are my goals?

At the core, I want to make points that are research-based and scientifically validated. This is rather different from just sharing an idea or strategy and leaving it at that. It involves articulating a position, assembling the evidence, and laying out the case.

Sometimes the science is a bit complicated, so making it understandable is a related goal. And that means avoiding jargon – i.e., finding everyday language to explain what could probably be expressed more succinctly (and yet much less clearly) with technical shorthand.

But just putting ideas out there – no matter how well justified or explained they are – doesn’t guarantee they will be applicable to real-life teaching and learning situations. So I also aim to make my points relevant and to incorporate examples wherever possible, including some with complexities representative of today’s classrooms (virtual or face to face).

Not surprisingly, the desiderata listed above all push in the same direction – toward longer posts.

So, in a very real sense, I should be satisfied that my posts are on the long side. And yet, in this age of 140-character messages and 480-second workouts, my 1,678-word posts (the average so far) are bucking a larger trend: the affinity for brevity. I can’t help but wonder: What’s the informational load – the level of complexity – that brevity can carry? Can I communicate the point I want to make in a thousand words (or fewer)?

I sometimes find myself trying for a quick post (perhaps that explains the alternating dips in the above graph), and yet what I end up with is anything but brief. It turns out that (at least when I am writing), complex ideas take time to express – the complexity has facets and components, and those facets/components have relationships. How can one not engage with that richness, savor it, and yes… expend a good number of words in doing so?

So don’t expect me to all-of-a-sudden shy away from long posts. But do hold my posts – whatever their length – to the tests of being research-based and scientifically validated, understandable, and applicable. I know I will.

P.S. For the record, the seventh data point is now in, and the word count is 445.

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