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Quotations about Brevity

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NOTE:  Some of the quotes on this page were submitted to me by visitors, and not all have been verified for original source or wording. I'm working hard to confirm everything, but in the meantime please be aware of the possibility for errors.   —ღ Terri, March 2021

He is a good man who makes two thoughts grow in as much language as one thought occupied before. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. ~Robert Southey

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief...
~William Shakespeare, Hamlet, c.1600  [II, 2, Polonius]

Good things, when short, are twice as good. ~Baltasar Gracián, The Art of Worldly Wisdom, translated from Spanish

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

Beware of expanding what is clear.... A literary work is produced by means of art, a book by means of ink and paper. You may produce a work in two pages, and only make a book although you fill ten volumes folio. ~Joseph Joubert (1754–1824), translated from French by George H. Calvert, 1866

Brevities are the golden formations in the quartz of literature. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. ~Thomas Jefferson

When he chose, or the exigency demanded, he could salt down a thought into the smallest and snuggest sentences... ~Edward G. Parker, Reminiscences of Rufus Choate, The Great American Advocate, 1860

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

If you can't explain something in a few words, try fewer. ~Robert Brault,

I have made this [letter] longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter. ~Blaise Pascal, Lettres Provinciales, 1657, translated from French

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

That writer does the most, who gives his reader the most knowledge, and takes from him the least time. ~Charles Caleb Colton

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do. ~Author Unknown

The trick to writing an aphorism is to place a period at the point where you're inclined to say, "in other words...." ~Robert Brault,

If you bring that sentence in for a fitting, I can have it shortened by Wednesday. ~M*A*S*H, Hawkeye, "The Gun"

"In good prose (says Schlegel) every word should be underlined!" that is, every word should be the right one; and then no one would be righter than another. There are no italics in Plato. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

He replies nothing but monosyllables. I believe he would make three bites of a cherry. ~Rabelais, Pantagruel

Any philosophy that can be put in a nutshell belongs there. ~Branch Rickey

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

· This is it. ~Erik Jensen, "The Shortest Article in Law Review History"
· Not so! ~Grant H. Morris' rebuttal
· Why? ~Thomas H. Ohom's response
· [blank page] ~Erik Jensen, "Comments in Reply"

Brevity is the soul of wit — and the sole charm of a bicycle skirt. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904

Brevity is the soul of lingerie. ~Dorothy Parker

If you can't write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don't have a clear idea. ~David Belasco

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