On Bridges and Brevity
Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Every day as I drive the three miles to our mailbox at the top of our country road, I cross an old, wooden bridge over a creek which, miraculously, still has water running during a California summer. When I roll onto its beams, they chink and jingle in a way that makes me picture it collapsing at the very moment I drive across. It’s a single lane bridge, so occasionally I have to pull over and wait for an oncoming vehicle. As of late, this vehicle is a giant tractor that the construction workers are using to build the new bridge parallel to the old one. The new bridge sits up higher, with sleek metal rails and smooth silver concrete that still has rebar sticking out of it. From both directions, the familiar orange sign wobbles on its crossed legs:
“Be prepared to stop”
Every time I see it, my inner editor feels annoyed. As writers, we’re always told to “write tight” and eliminate unnecessary words. Mentally, I translate the sign in my head to:
“Prepare to stop”
Both are imperative statements but mine saves a whole three letters – think of the production costs the state could save by eliminating the ink on three letters per sign! The construction worker interrupts my internal diatribe by waving me across. I've forgotten about it by the time I reach the top of the next hill. Until the drive home...