John B Keane: Padding - how to get away with doing it

The world is full of padders, and to prove my point let me put it like this; we are, each of us, padders of one kind or another whether we like it or not or whether we are aware of it or not. If there isn’t a goodly portion of padding in the foregoing, I’m a Dutchman.

The world is full of padders, and to prove my point let me put it like this; we are, each of us, padders of one kind or another whether we like it or not or whether we are aware of it or not. If there isn’t a goodly portion of padding in the foregoing, I’m a Dutchman.

Padding, of course, is filling out a thing with out actually improving the texture or the quality. I began padding when I was about twelve. I was sent to secondary school where homework consisted of, among other things, a composition on a particular subject decided on by the teacher and of certain length. The length, as far as I could see then and still see, was the paramount factor involved.

When I got home, the first thing I would do was make a few notes on the subject and then tear it into the sole purpose of getting it over with as quickly as possible . It was no asset that my writing was small and even when I deliberately made it bigger and spread out more, I was sure to lapse into my natural manner again.

The length of the essay or composition was to be three pages or approximately seven hundred words. After a page and a half I would run out of ideas, but when I discovered what padding was all about and how no essay, no matter who wrote it, could do without it.

For instance, we once got an essay to do on the subject of thrift, and when I found that I had run out of steam at the half way stage, I scrapped the original effort and concluded a most acceptable treatise by the simple ruse of making the original sentences twice as long wherever possible and where it was not possible I would repeat myself cleverly as I have been doing fairly consistently with this essay which I started a few moments ago.

Even if my writing had been larger, it wouldn’t have made any difference because certain young gentlemen, with exceedingly large handwriting, when they submitted the requisite three pages, were told it was just not good enough and that in future unless the size of the writing showed a sharp decrease, four or even five pages would be required instead of three.

Let me put it like this. In my seat at the school were two of the other boys named Mick and Willie. Willie would have to produce four pages to my three and Mick, who was a really professional paddler, would have to produce five.

“You won’t fool me,” the teacher used to say somewhat boastfully whenever he caught a fellow out with large handwriting. Quantity was the thing that mattered.

When we left school we left it with quite a few tricks to see us safely through the entanglement of the outside world. One of these tricks was the art of padding. Nobody likes letter writing except those who have hopes that the letters will be published posthumously and so devote a great deal of time and thought to every letter they write with the notable exception of those which answer requests for loans or gifts or sums of money.

When a chap left home, there was always that unanswered letter nagging at his conscience. Indeed there is no need to have an unanswered letter or letters nagging at one’s conscience. Well, to come to the point, answering letters was a chore which one was always, and is always, inclined to defer or put on the long finger, as the saying goes. Notice the padding, dear student. Try to emulate, and so spare yourself unnecesssarily and unwanted labour.

Where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about answering letters. The first thing to do when answering letters is to acknowledge the reciept of it. Secondly, the writer should be thanked. Thirdly, there should be mention of the weather. For every sentence start a new paragraph, and when concluding again thank the writer. If you don’t get a full page out of this you are not a padder, and will never be a padder. It often helps too to cross out a few words and re-write them. Thisis the way to fill pages and the object is, after all, to fill pages.

There is a great deal more I could say on this intriguing subject, but I feel that I have made my point and that I should conclude, for the good reason that editors, while they will accept a certain amount of padding, will not be hoodwinked by too much of it.