"Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte." – Lettres Provciales, 1657When translated by French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal, the English language was given the sentiment:
"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."
One of the most difficult endeavors in writing is brevity. To condense dozens of complex thoughts is a masterful art. When these ideas are not tethered, they run rampant and flow for thousands of words, consuming unnecessary space and time, galloping back in repetitious circles around themselves, repeating for dozens of statements, filling pages that need not be filled and robbing precious minutes from the reader; flowing, unrestrained, for innumerable unending sentences.
For most writing and communication, less is more.
Long and complex sentences are like an overgrown garden. Some careful maintenance can bring out the beauty. Consideration of each word can illuminate thoughts to the reader. Words can paint pictures when their presence is not overbearing. To cultivate this art, one must be mindful of one’s language. Masters of brevity select the most appropriate words and arrange them in precisely the manner needed to convey their thoughts. There is no clutter. There is no waste. Each word contributes to the sentence as a whole. No vestigial verbiage is employed.
When in a hurry, as we so often are, we neglect the power of our words. We fumble, uttering improper things, and blur the message we wish to share. The receivers of our words are left to untangle the muddled cluster we amalgamated. Unbridled language creates extraneous words; increasing the length our message, distorting its content, and diluting its impact. A careless use of language is disrespectful to whom we communicate. We are generating unneeded problems for others to solve. It is common courtesy to unscramble one’s own mess before passing it over to a peer.
A wordsmith takes the time to reflect on his thoughts before pressing pen to paper or lip to tongue. Like a sage carpenter, he measures twice, cuts once. He outlines his ideas, fleshing out their ancillary details, and snips away the excess. The product is lean and clean. It is accessible and beautiful. It is not sparse nor lacking, but compact and fulfilling, economical and precise. The craft of brief language is a skill worthy of one’s pride.
It is an art we can all learn to practice.