Quotations about   brevity

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Broadly speaking, short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
The Times Literary Award luncheon, London (2 Nov 1949)
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Added on 8-Mar-21 | Last updated 8-Mar-21
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Words are like Leaves; and where they most abound,
Much Fruit of Sense beneath is rarely found.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet
“An Essay on Criticism” (1711)
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Added on 25-Jan-21 | Last updated 25-Jan-21
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Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Jane Eyre, ch. 6 [Helen Burns] (1847)
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Added on 19-May-17 | Last updated 19-May-17
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A sacrifice, if we may say so, to the god Brevity, whom all historians, indeed, all who work with the written word, ought to worship.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
The Phoenix Guards (1991)
Added on 30-Dec-16 | Last updated 30-Dec-16
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Brevity is the soul of lingerie.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
Caption, Vogue (1916)

Quoted and attributed in Alexander Woollcott, While Rome Burns (1934). Modeled after Shakespeare. The full caption, from a page of women's underwear: "From these foundations of the autumn wardrobe, one may learn that brevity is the soul of lingerie, as the Petticoat said to the Chemise."
Added on 27-May-16 | Last updated 25-Jan-21
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Brevity is the soul of wit.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 2, sc. 2 [Polonius] (1600)
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In full:
"Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief ...."
Added on 20-May-16 | Last updated 20-May-16
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Whatever advice you give, be short.

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman poet and satirist [Quintus Horacius Flaccus]
Ars Poetica (c. 18 BC)
Added on 13-May-16 | Last updated 13-May-16
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The more you say, the less people remember.
The fewer the words, the greater the profit.

Francis de Sales - more you say - wist_info quote

François de Sales (1567-1622) French bishop, saint, writer [a.k.a. Francis de Sales, b. François de Boisy]
(Attributed)

In S.A. Bent, comp., Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men (1887). Usually attributed, due to structure of that reference, to Francois Fénelon.
Added on 6-May-16 | Last updated 6-May-16
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If you have anything to tell me of importance, for God’s sake begin at the end.

Sara Jeannette Duncan (1861-1922) Canadian author and journalist
The Imperialist (1904)
Added on 29-Apr-16 | Last updated 29-Apr-16
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Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
(Attributed)
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In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1891).
Added on 22-Apr-16 | Last updated 22-Apr-16
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Brevity is the sister of talent.

Chekhov - brevity sister of talent - wist_info quote

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904) Russian playwright and writer
Letter to Alexander Chekhov (11 Apr 1889)
Added on 15-Apr-16 | Last updated 15-Apr-16
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The more an idea is developed, the more concise becomes its expression; the more a tree is pruned, the better is the fruit.

Bougeard - better is the fruit - wist_info quote

Alfred Bougeard (1815-1882) French writer
(Attributed)

In J. De Finod (ed., tr.) A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1881).
Added on 8-Apr-16 | Last updated 8-Apr-16
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There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Donald Day, Uncle Sam's Uncle Josh (1972 ed., 1st pub. 1953).
Added on 1-Apr-16 | Last updated 1-Apr-16
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Be brief, for no discourse can please when too long.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish novelist
Don Quixote, Part 1, Book 3, ch. 7 (1605)
Added on 25-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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I don’t care how much a man talks, if he only says it in a few words.

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Josh Billings: His Sayings, “Affurisms” (1865)
Added on 18-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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You may get a large amount of truth into a brief space.

Beecher - into a brief space - wist_info quote

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
(Attributed)
Added on 11-Mar-16 | Last updated 11-Mar-16
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There was a pause — just long enough for an angel to pass, flying slowly.

Ronald Firbank (1886-1926) British novelist and playwright
Vainglory (1915)
Added on 11-Mar-16 | Last updated 11-Mar-16
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Mostly, when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings).

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
On Writing, ch. 12 (2000)
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See Leonard and Quiller-Couch.
Added on 13-Feb-14 | Last updated 10-Mar-21
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Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) American novelist and screenwriter
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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A frequent piece of advice from Leonard, e.g.:
  • "I leave out the parts that people skip." When asked about the popularity of his detective novels. Quoted in William Zinsser, A Family of Readers (1986)
  • "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip." In "Making It Up as I Go Along," AARP Magazine (Jul/Aug 2009).
Added on 30-Jan-14 | Last updated 10-Mar-21
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How long is life to the wretched, how short for the happy!

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 621 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 27-Jul-11 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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Struggling to be brief
I become obscure.

[Brevis esse laboro,
obscurus fio.]

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman poet and satirist [Quintus Horacius Flaccus]
Ars Poetica, l. 25 (c. 18 BC)

Alt. trans.: "Aiming at brevity, I become obscure."
Added on 9-May-11 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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Think not thy time short in this World since the World itself is not long. The created World is but a small Parenthesis in Eternity, and a short interposition for a time between such a state of duration, as was before it and may be after it.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Christian Morals, Part 3, sec. 24 (1716)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Aug-21
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