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keobooks's avatar

Holy Great Wall of Text, Batman! How do I cure myself of being a Teal Deer?

Asked by keobooks (12293 points ) August 15th, 2012

First of all, a Teal Deer is someone who writes those annoyingly long posts that you can’t get through because they are just too freaking long. On other boards, many people will post “TL DR” in reply to your huge monstrosity. That means “Too Long. Didn’t Read.” When you say TL DR out loud, it sounds like Teal Deer – hence the catchy nickname for folk who ramble on and on.

I’ve been looking back at some of my posts and my new blog entries. To be honest, if I wasn’t the one who wrote the posts, I would have skipped them. I frequently skip the posts of people who write really long and detailed posts here on Fluther. No shout outs to specific people – because I do it myself, I’m the last person who should be pointing out this particular flaw in others.

I want to write the kinds of posts that I would read instead of skipping because they are too long. But I tend to have a lot of points I want to cover in one post and when I have a lot to say on a subject, I want to make sure it all gets said.

I’d like some advice about editing and/or composing posts in such a way that TL DR doesn’t happen. How do you get all your points across without writing a book instead of a post? Or if you write a longer post, what do you do to keep readers reading instead of averting their eyes from the giant wall of text?

I am putting it in meta just because I think most answer will likely come from people talking about the way they post on Fluther instead of other boards or blogs.

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43 Answers

Judi's avatar

Try to narrow your thoughts to 1–3 main points. Write like a newspaper reporter. Make sure all the important stuff is included in the first few sentences, then elaborate later. In my prehistoric journalism class we were taught that the editor should be able to chop off paragraphs from the bottom of your piece and still have a complete story.
If you still think further elaboration is necessary, take your cues from the outline you laid out in the first paragraph.

Shippy's avatar

Such a nice question. I have ADHD and simply cannot read long posts the words just swim. Its a shame as no doubt they contain diamonds in there somewhere. I guess I do it too at times.

keobooks's avatar

Thanks for that great tip @Judi. One question: What is a ques?

Judi's avatar

Maybe I spelt it wrong? It is a theatrical term used to describe the line preceding yours that reminds you what your line will be.
oops I will fix it. It’s C-U-E

keobooks's avatar

Ahhh Ok. It’s spelled cues. Now I get it. The lowercase Q looks totally wonky backwards lowercase G to me in this font. Otherwise I would have been able to infer. I have a very slight dyslexia and so the backwards g threw me for a loop.

@Shippy I also have ADHD so I think it’s common to ramble. I do it IRL so it doesn’t surprise me that I do it in text as well. Especially because nobody can interrupt me while I’m typing and I can’t see any eyes start to glaze over as I type. But yeah – I write the kinds of posts I skip. And who wants to serve food that you wouldn’t eat yourself? Know what I mean?

Judi's avatar

ADD people like us need to re read and edit edit edit. There’s a reason I get so many perfecto fish awards. (And I still miss a bunch of stuff!!)

Nullo's avatar

Before you submit anything see if you can pare it down to 1–3 sentences. I found the Youtube comment section, with its limited characters, to be a good tool.

Response moderated (Flame-Bait)
keobooks's avatar

I don’t want to do shout-outs or cause a flame war between you and some other guy. I don’t have a clue who you are talking about. There are more than 10 people who I skip and I’m just guessing because when I see a TL DR, I don’t bother to look at the icon at who it is.

wundayatta's avatar

I really don’t care if anyone reads everything I write or not. Shoot. I won’t read my own posts. They’re way too long. Quite boring, too.

Well, not all of them. Every once in a while I write a long post worth reading, and sometimes people even read them.

On the other hand, there is stuff much longer than what I write all over the web, and people read that stuff, too. I don’t think we owe anyone any particular length. People read what they read. You can’t please everyone.

Now, if you want to write posts that you would read every time, then you have to write them and let them sit and then edit them, and then edit them again. It’s not worth it. You’ll be irrelevant by the time you get it in shape. Fluther is not a place where people should edit posts. The stuff here is too ephemeral. It has a shelf life of half a day to a day, at most.

I have to write at such length because I’m kind of stupid and I don’t know what I think. I write to find out what I think. You either go on that journey with me or you don’t. I don’t expect anyone to take the journey, but I am grateful when they do.

I applaud your urge to write succinctly and well. But this is not the place to do it. No one will read you if you take the time necessary to write like that. You have to hit hard. Hit first. And hit with everything you got, and even then, only a few people will read you.

YARNLADY's avatar

@wundayatta ***GREAT ANSWER***

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I usually don’t read Wunday’s posts, unless they’re directed towards me. ;)

keobooks's avatar

@wundayatta I’ve read your posts since back in the stone ages on Askville and I’ve always liked you and most of your posts. I admit I skim them sometimes, but I think because I feel like I know you, I always stop and read for a bit. I like you, wundy. So maybe I cut you more slack. I can’t skip you because your butt is in my face.

I seriously don’t know who I skip. I am not hinting around to anyone. I am talking about me. I used to get flamed on other boards because I rambled on so long. People would say stuff like “I didn’t come here to read G—D—- Tolstoy”

I do care what otther people think. I want to write to entertain or inform. I don’t care why other people write. Like I said, I don’t want to call out anyone. I just want to get info about how to stop MYSELF from doing it.

Kardamom's avatar

@Trillian Hey! I take offense to that LOL. Whaddaya mean there’s only one?

I’m one of the people who write long responses, when I think they are warranted. I read everybody’s responses, long or short. As long as your are answering the Q in a precise manner, whilst trying to throw in a little bit of humor as well, then there’s nothing wrong with long posts. The whole point is to answer the questions in the best way we know how, and each of us has our different styles. That’s why I love Fluther. You can hear the long _and_the short of it.

Unfortunately for the folks with ADD, they’re missing something by not being able to or being interested in reading the posts. But having ADD in general is no picnic for those people, so there’s a lot of things that they don’t participate in in the same way that non-ADD people do. We’re just different.

The only thing I can suggest, if you are bound and determined to to shorten your responses, is to edit, several times, before you post. Ask yourself the question again, and then give several one word answers that are the actual answers, then fill in the sentences until you are satisfied. Sometimes it’s easier to do your writing in a Word document, instead of on the site window, because sometimes, something will happen, or you’ll do something dumb like I have before (usually when trying to operate a Google Window and and Fluther Window at the same time) and I’ll hit the red X button and close my Fluther box, instead of the maximize button. I hate when that happens, but when it does I’ll just start over, even if it took me an hour to find all of those recipes!

josie's avatar

Condition yourself by reading more Hemmingway.
Or maybe don’t worry about it.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Kardamom I love your posts.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Shouldn’t we be more disappointed in the people who say “TL;DR” than we are in the people who take the time to write out carefully considered replies? If you really do have a lot to say, then say it. Writing succinctly is a skill, and there’s nothing wrong with honing it; but cutting out repetitiveness is quite different from cutting out essential details. There is no virtue in brevity for the sake of brevity.

In any case, you might consider providing a short version and a long version of your post (as I have done on occasion). The short version might simply present your conclusions, while the support for those conclusions are placed in the long version for those who are interested. It’s a bit like how the abstract of a paper lets you know whether or not it would be worth your while to read the entire thing.

keobooks's avatar

I will talk about why this came up. I am writing something specifically for people with ADHD and severe problems with organization and attention. I’ve looked back at what I’ve written and thought to myself—I wouldn’t read that.

Because in this case, my target audience is for people with very short attention spans, I want to make my writing more appealing to that demographic. I just posted on meta because I started online posting on boards very similar to these and when I blog or write anything online, I am reminded of these sorts of boards.

We are all mini publishers of our own ideas here. So this is where I go to ask about editing online.

@SavoirFaire I LIKE that idea.

marinelife's avatar

Well, I used to be a TL DR, but time and familiarity with Fluther questions cured me of it. So just be patient. Your desire to type your brains out for half an hour will wane after a while.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Just for the record, I like to read your posts. Often I can feel the emotion behind them.

wundayatta's avatar

There is a time when I try to write very little. When I changed identities and didn’t want anyone to know who I was, I would write no more than one paragraph. This worked for a few days, but then I couldn’t stand it any more, and then people caught on to who I was.

When it worked, I would tell myself no more than one paragraph. That meant whatever the first idea I had was, was it. No more. It helped, but it was frustrating.

If I was going to do it seriously, I would write out everything, then read it through, asking myself what the most important idea was. Then I’d rewrite it in one paragraph focusing on that idea. I’d lose everything else. I think it would work if you were disciplined. But you have to really want to discipline yourself.

gailcalled's avatar

Pity your readers.

Remember that prose is not speech (with all its tics and ums and informal breeziness) translated into print.

Love parallel construction, honor it and keep it holy.

Write it and then edit it, ruthlessly.

If you’re not sure how to spell something, look it up.

Don’t paraphrase the same idea even once, even if you love the idea and want to build a statue to it, or perhaps,have someone chisel it in stone somewhere.

The golden rule is: “if I had had more time, I would have made it shorter.”

@keobooks;Try to rewrite that question using half the number of words. It’s always a useful exercise.

Bellatrix's avatar

There are times when a longer post (never an essay) is warranted. @Judi‘s response is correct. Use the inverted pyramid as a tool and edit carefully. Not that I always take my own advice.

No offence intended but I find it arrogant to write an excessively long post and I rarely read them. I like and respect some of the ‘long post’ writers, but I don’t have the time or inclination to read essays here. I skim some long posts, others I leave unread. I wonder how many people do pass or only skim read such posts? All the effort that goes into epic posts is lost if people don’t read them.

keobooks's avatar

The problem is, it can be really daunting. This borders on shout out – so shame on me. But there is this post in one thread that I am very interested. It is SO long that when you scroll down to read it, you see NO ICONS on the page at all. It’s just this big white wall full of text.

It’s also formatted funny. Sometimes there are line breaks between the paragraphs. Sometimes there are not. Not having a nice full space or so between paragraphs makes it difficult to follow where one thought begins and another thought ends.

It’s hard on the eyes and feels like a chore to read when you’re not only combatting sheer length – but big chunks of text with no nice white space to give your eyes a break and give you a good feel where one thought ends and the next begins.

I make sure to “chunk up” my longer posts and that may help give the illusion of brevity. Or it may look more like a book’s format so it feels more comfortable. For some reason long books don’t bother me, but long posts can hurt.

Symbeline's avatar

What I try to do to shorten my stuff is use the review approach. Like when you write a review for a movie or a video game or something. You have to separate the whole of the matter into the most important parts. Say like, concept, imagery, presentation, what’s good what’s bad. Like make a body, then sever it into several parts. Then take those parts and try to compress all the sentences inside so they cover all the really important stuff according to that part. Then put everything in according order.
I personally let little details skip, if I don’t see them as so important, even if they’re related. I figure that I can mention them later in the question, if it’s brought up.

Say for example I ask; who would you feed in a small group of zombie apocalypse survivors if you didn’t have enough food for everyone?

I’d present that concept; survivors during the apocalypse, and how it’s your job to decide who eats.
Then I’d name the types of people in the group; children, fighters, slackers, and people good with wires.
Then I’d conclude with what would j00 do, bro?

Kind of like if you review Night of the Living Dead; bring up the genre with some general information. Describes a bit of what happens and how it’s presented. Proceed with plot, special effects, acting and if it works or not. Then conclude whether it’s worth it or not.

Well, it’s not really a suggestion; first of all I’m not a movie reviewer, but I still like writing em, and I do find that this approach does help me to shorten my stuff up a bit. If it’s a technical question, I leave everything out that isn’t important detail.
I guess a lot of it depends on what kind of question you’re making, but I find that slicing everything up and keeping the more important stuff under the light is my best approach. Doesn’t seem like it too much I guess, but I’m pretty Teal Deer myself if I don’t edit the whole thing first.

hug_of_war's avatar

I’m ok with long posts as long as there are paragraphs. My horrible eyes can’t really read enormous blocks of texts without spaces. If I find a post too long, I tend to skim it if I think there is some good stuff but I’m starting to get bored reading it.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

Brevity is not my forte either. The only advice I’d offer is the same that @hug_of_war has already offered: present your posts in coherent, well-structured paragraphs. That can make all the difference.

poisonedantidote's avatar

User 1: “TL DR”
User 2: “Eat any good books lately?”

Yes, I stole a line from Stark Trek, I know, I’m a terrible person, but it sums up my feelings on TL DR

zensky's avatar

You should ask @Kardamom as she is a recovering WOTer (Wall O’ Text).

Or maybe Daloon. And here’s a tilde fer ya ~.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m another ADD person. I have to concentrate hard to read a long text. If I’m in a hurry, forget it. I’m a good listener, but I have to hear the words I’m reading, in my head, or there is literally no meaning there. Slows down the process a lot.
My advice: write shorter sentences. Simple sentences are easier to read than compound complex sentences.

CWOTUS's avatar

Write well and be interesting, entertaining, factual and/or necessary. Those who are interested will read what you write when they have an expectation of being able to understand, and likewise expect to be informed or entertained.

When I start to look at run-on paragraphs made up of run-on sentences; incomplete sentences; misplaced modifiers; gross misspellings; clearly inappropriate vocabulary, word and idiom usage; subject / verb disagreements; ambiguous pronoun use (which I call “pronoun hell”) and illogic, then I quit, too. Sometimes I try to imagine “what they really meant”, and make a response based on that, and sometimes I just throw up my hands and walk away.

But when I’m interested and the question or response seems well-written and it’s by someone that I have a history of comprehending (even if I don’t always agree), then I’ll read it. On the other hand… there are a lot of writers I skip entirely, questions and responses alike, because I have had enough of their bias / ideology or simple nonsense (and not in the funny or entertaining way), and I know the writing will bore or misinform me.

“Long text” shouldn’t be a barrier to reading as long as the text makes sense and can be read.

gailcalled's avatar

There are four flutherers whose answers I will read, no matter what the subject, because of the beauty and elegance of their writing styles.

And likewise, I skip answers that touch on interesting subjects if the writer is a long-time wind-bag and unapologetic usuage sinner.

@cwotus’ point about chronic misinformation is also one I pay attention to.

bookish1's avatar

Whether it’s a school paper, an email, or a Fluther post, I usually edit what I have written at least 4 times because I am always too damn verbose…

rooeytoo's avatar

As long as there are paragraph breaks and it is a subject that interests me, I read regardless of how lengthy the response is.

So you don’t have to change anything for me. ;-)

blueiiznh's avatar

For those who prefer the visual effect TLDR

linguaphile's avatar

I save my text walls for things I really feel strongly about, and even then, I edit at least 5 times to make sure I’m clear, not running-on too much, and use paragraphs. My first replies on Fluther were little essays—after a while I realized the effort was better put into shorter answers.

But, if I feel strongly about something, I write away. I know they might be skipped over, but if my ‘longitude’ can offer a perspective to others, I do it anyway.

Kardamom's avatar

@linguaphile I love your little essays, long and short : )

janbb's avatar

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a beautiful editor.

keobooks's avatar

So is having a laptop with a really poorly designed keyboard. I find I’m writing shorter things because I can’t stand the way the cursor randomly moves around because the mouse pad is exactly where I rest the butt of my hand when I type.

YARNLADY's avatar

^^ Oh, I hate that too

linguaphile's avatar

@Kardamom Aw… a sincere thank you :) I enjoy reading your posts as well! :)

Kardamom's avatar

@linguaphile Welcome to the Mutual Admiration Society! Hee hee.

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