Be Brief

be-briefParadoxically, it is often easier to express our thoughts in 500 words than it is in 50, which may explain why much of what we write is unduly long. While some topics clearly demand more elaboration than others, it is important to convey your message as succinctly as possible, partly because attention spans are short – and growing shorter – and partly because wordiness may well obscure the very point you wish to make. Quality trumps quantity or, as William Shakespeare famously put it, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” So write as leanly as possible, and when you edit your work, look for fat as keenly as you look for typos.



Establish a firm word or page limit or, in the case of email, confine yourself to a single screen. This may appear arbitrary, but it does compel you to exercise the discipline that brevity requires.

Like a reporter whose editor may need to shorten his or her story to make room for other news, ensure that the most important elements in your message are conveyed first. By setting clear priorities, you may well discover that matters of less significance can be omitted altogether.

Having written a sentence, see if you can reduce its length by eliminating needless words, as in this example: “In spite of the fact that it was oppressively hot, David made a deliberate choice to run five miles” versus “Though oppressively hot, David deliberately chose to run five miles.”

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