Word Economy

Yesterday, I finished the final term paper of my undergraduate career. It was for a senior-level, final semester class with an instructor who found it appropriate to have graduate-level expectations of the students. I've been raging against this class and professor all semester, so it really shouldn't come as a surprise that he required of us a 10-page paper discussing the mundane details of the monumental orchestral masterwork of the ages and how it used the instrumental forces it called for.

Now, I must take this opportunity to express to you the sheer verbosity 10 pages requires. Even with 1½” margins, it comes out to roughly 2,500 words.

I've never uttered 2,500 consecutive words in my life.

If I don't get the point across in under 1,000, I've got no business arguing for it in the first place.

In the effort to appease the instructor, and at least meeting him halfway, I found a way to pad the word count to close to 2,000. I felt like a word whore, but it was the most watering-down of my language I could do without inserting words and phrases like “pancreas” and “cheese is yummy”.

In interviewing other students enrolled in the course, no one (except the foreign student who's been using English about as long as I've been a college student) even came close to the expected page count.

Personally, I believe that it's not quantity of speech, but quality and efficiency that helps convey a point, whether that point be of a political, social, or scholarly nature. If the audience has to wade through pages of completely useless typography to unearth a tangible idea, the entire project is rendered an unnecessary waste of time on the part of the writer and the audience.

While this is certainly the case under the auspices of higher education, it has found a way to the internet as well.

I speak of no other than the evil Jeeves himself.

"Imagine," the creators of this website brainstorm one night over a Nachos Bellgrande after finishing off their stash of grass, "a search engine where, instead of typing in what you want to find, we create a fictional butler-like man who finds you websites based on complete sentences stated in the form of a question."

Twelve minutes later, a digital Alex Trebek appears online, waiting to waste people's time and energy while simultaneously pushing banner ads to the desktops of the self-loathing websurfers who have yet to catch word of superior (gimmick-free, even) search engines like Google.

Sure, you can speak fragments to Jeeves, since his search script basically ignores question words from the start anyway, but that tends to defeat the purpose of the butler's entire existence, in addition to extracting the "fun" we're supposed to be having on our society's information superhighway.

Personally, I don't get on the internet to be hassled by some stickler for subject-verb agreement while I'm running a search for full mp3 albums. I'd prefer spending less time searching and more time pirating.

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