Monday, May 19, 2008

Brevity is Vigor

William Strunk JR. and E.B. White's brilliant book "The Elements of Style" has many great writing advices that everyone should follow. For me, the one gem on top of the list, most likely because I am so bad at it, is "brevity is vigor." "Omit needless words!", "Omit needless words!", "Omit needless words!" - cries the author throughout the book.

But his wisdom is timeless. Today's media, Internet, the Information Highway, and even the Academia is filled with "dumbed-down" and "bloated-up" trash that is frequently wordy and vacuous. What can be said in two sentences are expanded into five. "Words are cheap", the authors seem to say. Unfortunately, so are their ideas - they are like the prevalent fast foods: cheap, fast, in large quantities, but ultimately bad for you.

Here is what some other people said about brevity:

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what other men say in whole books - what other men do not say in whole books. ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, give it more thought. ~Dennis Roth

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