“Economy of language” is a term I learned in grad school and I wish they taught it to all working adults, especially those who end up sending a lot of emails. A counter-example of economy of language is precisely what I’m doing now.

A good example of economy of language:

Economy of language is saying what you need in a short and precise way.

This is so important with students. Their attention span is short (heck, ours are, too!). Don’t ramble, don’t use big scary vocabulary. Keep it short and sweet. It’s very easy to lose time as a teacher while standing and talking in front of the whole class. You know what you mean, but after five-minutes-in, the students probably don’t know and don’t care. It is so much more important, in any subject area, to have the students doing and trying. Listening to you talking is not the same as the students actually struggling with the work themselves, which is what we’re ultimately training them to do.

I naïvely thought I was good with economy of language when I started teaching, but after a few classroom observations from my grad school professor, I realized I thought wrong. To mend this, I scripted a few lessons – I literally wrote out exactly what I wanted to explain about parallel lines, for example, before I had to teach a lesson on them. I took that script and crossed parts out until I had the shortest, most precise version. I then used this verbiage in class and spent two successful minutes explaining parallel lines, instead of ten round-about and confusing minutes.

Economy of language is equally important with coworkers. Send short, precise emails. Don’t reply-all. Protect your prep periods by actually using them to prep.

A final word on economy of language: it also applies to videos. I love sharing relevant, polished YouTube videos during class, but I am always mindful of keeping the chunks to 10-minutes or less.

Yours in brevity,


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