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Learn Streamlining: Write Six-Word Memoirs

2 min read

Having trouble writing your tweet?

It’s hard to tweet because you have to get all of your thoughts into such a short amount of space. Why not rehearse using six-word memoirs? I’m sure you’ve heard of them.

According to Smith, the online magazine, a six-word memoir is the story of your life in a single, concise sentence:

“Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.””

That example is rather sad, but also perfectly concise. If you write a six-word memoir, it forces you to take your ideas and boil them down to their very essence. Try one each day. Make them with your friends. It makes for a great party game!

Read more six-word memoirs in NPR’s coverage of the book Not Quite What I Was Planning.

The difficult task of writing concisely is easier if you know some basic streamlining rules.


What is “streamlining”?

“Streamlining” is making sentences concise by eliminating unnecessary words. Don’t try to streamline as you draft—it’s much easier to edit on paper than in your head.


How do you begin?

There are some typical trouble spots where writers tend to be wordy. Addressing these trouble spots will help you streamline your writing.

Trouble Spot #1: Long words
Use short, clear words for better readability.  Here are some examples:

  • “use” in place of “utilize”

  • “start” or “begin” in place of “initiate”

Trouble Spot #2: Wordy phrases
Be direct. Avoid clichés, jargon, and idioms. For example, change

  • “we would like to ask that” to “please,” and

  • “do I have the green light to go ahead with this?” to “do I have permission to begin this?”

Trouble Spot #3: Redundancies
Avoid unnecessary repetition (called tautologies). Change

  • “advanced ahead” to “advanced,” and

  •  “important essentials” to “essentials.”


To respond: post a six-word memoir about writing!


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