Teleclumping

Teleclumping is a term that describes writing that resembles the terse succinctness of a telegram's compressed language. Teleclumping is similar to chronoclumping except that the writing that follows the chronological references is in short and sometimes incomplete sentences, is typically present tense, and is sometimes laconic. Two examples come from John McPhee's Table of Contents, the first from "A Textbook Place for Bears." Here, the police get calls about bears and enter the complaints:

The bears go onto the blotter.

Sussex County, 1981. Bear shows up at a barbecue, goes straight upwind to the charcoal-broiling hotdogs, takes them from the grill.

Morris County, 1981. Fox terrier trees bear. Bear refuses to descend, largely because a hundred people have collected under the tree. Address: Denville.

Morris County, 1982. Bear plays with back-yard swing, takes clothing from clothesline, mounts ceramic deer.

Passaic County, 1982. Bear in private garden attempts to pass through opening in dry wall. Bear too wide, knocks down dry wall.

In McPhee's North of the C.P. Line, he writes about airborne game wardens flying over Maine during hunting season, ready to help find lost (temporarily confused) hunters. The flier monitors the C.B. radio:

"Two Two Five Two. Two Two Six Seven. I'm over the St. John near the Big Black Rapid, eastbound. Is there anything we can do for you while we're here?"

The voices of wardens come up from the woods. A hunter near Seven Islands has lost his bearings, has no idea where he set up his camp. Jack (the pilot) has a look and finds the camp. A party at Nine Mile is missing one hunter. Jack hunts the hunter and finds him walking in a brook.

The techniques of litany and clumping can help you write more creatively or compress information. Consider them first as ways to make your writing more interesting, and second, as ways to compress your ideas to fit length limitations.

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