"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Brevity

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

Thomas Jefferson admired the beauty of brevity. He urged authors to remember that the goal in writing is to communicate an idea, not show how many words you know.

Strive for brevity in your own work. Write first. Then edit. Remove all the words you can live without and still tell your story. Does your piece still make sense? Are your ideas clearly communicated? Then, your editing works. You are "tightening your writing."

Tweeting is a good exercise in brevity. Just think how much information can be conveyed in 140 characters or less. Remember that when it's time to revise.

Always write with an open heart. Never limit yourself in the first draft. However, keep Jefferson's words present as you edit. After all, he helped write the Declaration of Independence, the document establishing the right to be an independent nation, using less than fourteen hundred wisely selected words!

22 comments:

D.G. Hudson said...

Brevity is necessary when everyone is crushed for time. But there is a point where brevity spoils the result, when one must interpret. The skill of being precise or specific is important when using brevity.

Good word for B.

Craig Edwards said...

Brevity is a tightrope to walk as D.G. points out. Excellent post!

Chrys Fey said...

Excellent post! Brevity is so important whenever we are doing something we love. I always say to be brave and try something new whenever we're writing. It's the only way to go. :)

loverofwords said...

Another quote I like from Mark Twain" "If it sounds like writing, re-write."

shelly said...

Love, love, and love this post!

shelly said...

Love, love, and love this post!

A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

Too much brevity and your story loses something. It becomes a caricature of a tale. You have to be very careful when you edit that you don't take out too much. But the proper balance can be reached if you work at it.

Rebecca Douglass said...

"Brevity is the soul of wit."
"I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have time."

The first is Shakespeare, the second Twain? The goal isn't to edit it back down to an outline, but to use only the words needed. I recently did a post on this, as a review of Roy Peter Clark's Writing Short.
http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/2014/03/progressive-book-club-writing-short.html

Steven said...

So very true. Brevity makes the Gettysburg Address a masterpiece, even today.

Sharon Himsl said...

Hi, Sylvia. Did not know this about Jefferson. Someone else said "Less is more" and I have always tried to remember this in my writing.
Shells–Tales–Sails

Sharon Bradshaw said...

This is a great post, and an interesting "B". Thank you, I enjoyed reading it.

Christine Rains said...

Great post! Writing short stories has taught me a lot about this. My novels are now more tightly written because I practiced with shorter tales.

Thanks for stopping by Untethered Realms today!

Rita A. said...

Great advice. It seems there's a lot of excess words out there these days.
Rita A to Z 1896

Jak Cryton said...

Great choice for a B word, but I may be biased!

Being brief has never been my strong suit. I have, however, begun to edit down pieces of my writing over time a lot more than I ever used to. Perhaps a little more practice and it will just come naturally. Then again, the editing process exists for a reason :)

Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

மதி (GS) said...

Very inspiring quote.. How fittingly I visit your blog on a day you post about brevity ! Thanks for the comment on my 6-word story.. Jefferson inspires a lot

GS at Moontime Tunes

#1Nana said...

Good advice. I find it helps me to put a piece away for a few days and come back and read it with fresh eyes. Sometimes I'm quite surprised at the errors that jump out at me.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Don't overextend in writing, got it!

SittieCates said...

B for brevity. Love it. :-)

Veronica Sicoe said...

Heh. You're absolutely right.
Brevity sure doesn't come as naturally to most writer as it should. I posted about brevity in science-fiction, because it's such an important thing and yet so painfully neglected. :)

- Vero

Patrick Stahl said...

I wrote a post titled "Don't Waste Words" a few months ago on just this subject. "Brevity is the soul of wit."

Lynda Dietz said...

Oh, I like that sentiment! My editing life is spent in the pursuit of word elimination.

Leslie Melby said...

What great advice! I learned this painful lesson while writing many papers in college. It's so true. No reason to go on and on. Just effectively and concisely state your point and move on.

Thanks for checking out my Egg Bread post on the A to Z Challenge!

http://www.thingsmymothertaught.com