May 10: This Could Have Been Shorter

Brevity forces us to cut excess, and to ultimately distill a message to its core.

Source: NPR
Published: February 2014

This Could Have Been Shorter

Brevity forces us to cut excess — to distill a message to its core. 

In 1657 French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal famously wrote: 

"I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter."

In 1750 US Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrote:

“I have already made this paper too long, for which I must crave pardon, not having now time to make it shorter.”

In 1857 American philosopher and essayist Henry David Thoreau wrote: 

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

In 1918, when asked about preparing for a speech, US President Woodrow Wilson responded:

“If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week.”

Next time you’re writing, whether an email or a 6-pager, consider taking the extra time to make your communication shorter.


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