Short and To the Point

Brevity Pulls

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” — Blaise Pascal


I was one of those kids whose English teacher would say, “You need to develop this more, Linda,”  when I turned in a writing assignment.  Aggravated the dickens out of me.  I figured there are only so many ways to say something, and I don’t believe in saying the same thing six different ways just to fill up space. 

It takes some thinking to be concise.  You need to plan what you’re going to say, whether it be written or verbal. If we don’t take the time to think it through, then we end up using fifty words where ten would have done the job.

We are not thoughtful conversationalists.  We interrupt ourselves (and others), backtrack, leave partial sentences hanging in mid-air. We think we need to tell the backstory before the listener will understand.  Usually, that isn’t true.

I think we may be better writers than we are talkers, because writing takes more effort.

When I taught high school English, we always did a unit on the research paper.  Groan for the kids, but many have told me years later how much it helped them in college.  I insisted that they outline their plan before they started writing; also, that they stay with the outline.  I helped them get the outline in good order, teaching them to think logically and carefully before they started writing.  What they learned was that if they had a good plan, the hard work was already done.  The writing tended to flow fairly easily because of the research, organization and detailed planning that had gone ahead of the writing.

I had a teacher years ago who first introduced me and the class to this acronym:  KISS.  Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Or, more kindly, Keep It Short and Sweet.  Either way, brevity, clarity, and simplicity are much more likely to be read than will long, rambling, verbose prose.


2 thoughts on “Short and To the Point

  1. Precis writing had always troubled me during my school days. To use one word instead of ten meant that I needed to have a large vocabulary. Building a good vocabulary, choosing the right words, especially while speaking takes a lot of effort and many a times is frustrating when we are at loss of proper words.
    For me brevity is the soul of wit and wit is the source of wisdom.

    Thanks for a wonderful post.


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