Essays/Brevity

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the eternal conundrum

Tina: Your email was rather brusque / Dilbert: You mean concise.

quotes on brevity

  • Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in a few words.
      ― Ecclesiasticus
  • It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.
      ― Robert Southey
  • Good things, when short, are twice as good.
      ― Baltasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom
  • 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
  • Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.
      ― William Shakespeare, Hamlet
  • Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
      ― Dorothy Parker
  • The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.
      ― Thomas Jefferson
  • My great-grandfather used to say to his wife, my great-grandmother, who in turn told her daughter, my grandmother, who repeated it to her daughter, my mother, who used to remind her daughter, my own sister, that to talk well and eloquently was a very great art, but that an equally great one was to know the right moment to stop.
      ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • 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.
      ― William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, 1918
  • If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, give it more thought.
      ― Dennis Roth
  • I made this [letter] very long because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter. Or: The present letter is a very long one because I had no leisure to make it shorter. (Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.)
      ― Blaise Pascal, Lettres Provinciales (1656-1657), no. 16.
  • In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.
      ― Sydney Smith
  • Ken taught me some useful productions: If it’s a clause, turn it into a phrase. If it’s a phrase, turn it into an adjective or an adverb. If it’s an adjective or an adverb, omit it. And you apply these recursively.
      ― Fred Brooks, in Ken Iverson Quotations and Anecdotes
  • It annoyed Ken to no end when accused of being “too terse”, for example as in “the dictionary is too terse”, when “terse” means “effectively concise”.
      ― Roger Hui, in Remembering Ken Iverson
  • If you bring that sentence in for a fitting, I can have it shortened by Wednesday.
      ― "Hawkeye", M*A*S*H, "The Gun"
  • If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.
      ― Lord Sandwich
  • If you can't write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don't have a clear idea.
      ― David Belasco
  • Cower, brief mortals.
      ― "Death", Hogfather (Discworld)
  • The fewer the words, the better the prayer.
      ― Martin Luther
  • Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator.
      ― Marcus Tulius Cicero
  • Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.
      ― Marcus Tulius Cicero
  • It wasn't by accident that the Gettysburg address was so short. The laws of prose writing are as immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics.
      ― Ernest Hemingway
  • I strive to be brief, and I become obscure.
      ― Horace
  • It is no great art to say something briefly when, like Tacitus, one has something to say; when one has nothing to say, however, and none the less writes a whole book and makes truth into a liar -- that I call an achievement.
      ― Georg C. Lichtenberg
  • 大道至簡 (great tao ultimately simple)
      ― Chinese proverb
  • Only short programs have any hope of being correct.
      ― Arthur Whitney
  • For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
      ― Ernest Hemingway (who supposedly called it his best work)
  • If.
      ― Sparta's reply to Philip II's message, "If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta to the ground."
  • [W]hat is clear and easily comprehended attracts, the complicated repels us.
      ― David Hilbert, Address to the 2nd International Congress of Mathematicians, Paris, 1900-08-08.
  • All pleasantry should be short; and it might even be as well were the serious short also.
      ― Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet)
  • I AM
      ― God, upon being asked his nature (Exodus 3:14)

sources

Initial collection provided by http://www.quotegarden.com/brevity.html and http://en.proverbia.net/citastema.asp?tematica=143 * Yet to merge: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/resources/quotes/historical.cfm