So how long is too long, too short, or just long enough? When teaching the elements of essays, teachers often ask for five paragraphs: Introduction, Body (three paragraphs), and Conclusion. Some teachers will say that you should quit writing when you’ve accomplished your purpose. It’s not uncommon that the five-paragraph essay will do that if the writer doesn’t waste words and sharpens the content.
In speaking, it is usually assumed that twenty minutes is a good length. There is some evidence that audiences tend to drift away and think about something else after that length of time. Also, if you can’t establish your point in twenty minutes, you probably can’t do it in fifty. This has changed over time. It was not unusual for a minister to go on for two hours on a sermon. He would probably be fired or would lose his congregation today if he did that. The same is true of the politician. If you’ll notice, the speeches are not overly long.
On the other hand, we know of incidents where a very long speech or a very long treatise on a subject accomplishes wonders, especially historical ones. A good rule of thumb is the one that the teacher gives: quit when you accomplish your purpose. Of course, you must plan and do a lot of rewriting if that is going to work for you.
- Next article Discovery