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Quotations about Brevity

Grammar      Language      Speaking      Writing -->

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


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


...my ambition is to say in ten sentences what every one else says in a book, — what every one else does not say in a book… ~Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Thomas Common


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


In reading the Reporters, enter in a Common-place book every case of value, condensed into the narrowest compass possible which will admit of presenting distinctly the principles of the case. This operation is doubly useful, inasmuch as it obliges the student to seek out the pith of the case, and habituates him to a condensation of thought, and to an acquisition of the most valuable of all talents, that of never using two words where one will do. It fixes the case too more indelibly in the mind. ~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


Vigorous writing is concise. 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. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. ~William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, 1918


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


Reverend fathers, my letters were not wont either to be so prolix, or to follow so closely on one another. Want of time must plead my excuse for both of these faults. The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no time to make it shorter. ~Blaise Pascal, 1656, translated by Thomas M'Crie, 1875


The speech was quite good…
We enjoyed all his levity.
If only it could
Have included some brevity!
~William Arthur Ward (1921–1994)


Even a good sermon should not be too long. ~Edward Payson Powell (1833–1915), "An Old-Time Thanksgiving," 1904


BREVITY.  The quality that makes cigarettes, speeches, love affairs and ocean voyages bearable. ~H. L. Mencken


In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give your style. ~Sydney Smith


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, rbrault.blogspot.com


If you bring that sentence in for a fitting, I can have it shortened by Wednesday. ~M*A*S*H, "The Gun," 1975, written by Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds  [S4, E13, Hawkeye]


In the recipe for public speaking, the most important ingredient is the shortening. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968


"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


...you've heard how short, concise, and compendious he is in his Answers? Nothing is to be got out of him but Monosyllables? by Jingo, I believe he would make three Bites of a Cherry. ~François Rabelais


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





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