Be Brief

3/25/1999 Version

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Says It The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. -Thomas Jefferson

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. -William Strunk, Jr.

There you have a short, valuable essay on the nature and beauty of brevity -- sixty-three words that could change the world. -E. B. White


1. These items and other epigrams in class handouts (hardcopy) or web pages may not be in the established files (ten categories - see pointers at the end of Inspired Words). For extra credit, locate where to place a saying, after demonstrating that it is not yet in the ten groups posted to the web.

2. Rewrite a paragraph - something you wrote or read last week - to eliminate at least one word or to shorten the item without changing its plain meaning.

3. Most authors feel that editing implies criticism, but it really is an assist to enable rapid communication. Vary the following statement to make it suitable for a visual for a talk. That is, isolate keywords or shorten the text.

I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism. -Charles Schwab