More time = shorter letter

April 12, 2006 | By | 41 Replies More

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662) Lettres provinciales.

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

Henry David Thoreau

If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.

Marcus T. Cicero

You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.

Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855)

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.


The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit.


No one who has read official documents needs to be told how easy it is to conceal the essential truth under the apparently candid and all-disclosing phrases of a voluminous and particularizing report….

Woodrow Wilson

“If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today.  If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”

Mark Twain


Category: Quotes

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (41)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Chris says:

    Absolutely marvelous,

    All the favorite quotations, and some that were obviously quoted from the previous author, but a seam of truth runs through this board…

    nuff said

  2. Tiphanie says:

    This is wonderful. How true it is, especially when one can ramble on for hours about absolutely nothing, but when asked to say something meaningful, the words escape and must be captured in a round-about way – with plenty of wordy sentences.

  3. Eris says:

    True words of wisdom. I'm glad I found this site, thanks.

  4. Old Spider says:

    "I'll be there early. Sooner or later." Sounds like something from Black Adder, does it not?

  5. Jim says:

    There's worse than terse.

  6. incestuous fellow says:


  7. Great. Thanks. — Short enough?

  8. JohnA says:

    Interesting – I received a rather short letter just yesterday. It simply read "Dear John"

  9. Amber Erin says:

    I always wondered why it would take me 20 minutes to come up with a 2 page essay, and 3 weeks to come up with a page that said the same things.

  10. mark lawton says:


  11. Leonid S. Sukhorukov says:

    * An aphorism is a one-line novel. (Book of aphorisms "All About Everything"? by Leonid S. Sukhorukov, UK, 2005)

  12. Leonid S. Sukhorukov says:

    * Those who risk nothing risk being nothing.

  13. Leonid S. Sukhorukov says:

    * I write in brief because I am lost for words. Leonid S. Sukhorukov

  14. * Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it can also be a mersy. Leonid S. Sukhorukov (A book of 400 aphorisms "All About EWverything", UK, 2005)

  15. * Postscript

    I think you think you understand my thoughts here, but I doubt you really realise that what you thought I thought is not exactly what I thought I thought. Leonid S. Sukhorukov

  16. * In life, everything is relative – except Einstein’s theory! Leonid S. Sukhorukov

  17. Toulouse Mumfuzz says:

    "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." This quote has been attributed to Voltaire, Ciscero, Mark Twain, Pascal and T.S. Elliot (perhaps others, too). As one whose daily bread is dependent upon the quality of one's writing, this quote resonates within me. Anyone who writes well knows that good writing takes time. Poor writing is often poor simply because there's no time, and hence no care, put into it. At least, this is the lesson that I attempt, on a daily basis, to impart to my young charges.

  18. Dan Klarmann says:

    Long and sloppy writing is rewarded in the blogosphere. The more words you post, the better the search engines like you. Therefore, there is a measurable evolutionary disincentive to write clearly and concisely.

    However, the evolving Semantic Web (wiki, Scientific American) will eventually allow people to find ideas rather than blather. At that point, the evolutionary pressure will favor more readable and coherent writing. I hope.

    Reading most blogs, especially the responses, would give any language savvy reader shudders. It is not so much that people don't (or won't) spend the extra time to clean up their writing. But rather that many seem unaware that good writing is particularly desirable or possible. Most of them obviously don't use the FireFox web browser to have instant spell checking everywhere. How much effort would that take?

  19. I find it mildly humorous that this post is around 200 words when it could be 20. 🙂

    Good collection of quotes on the topic of writing.

  20. Zachery Bir says:

    "Perfection is attained, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  21. Anonymous Coward says:

    Makes me think of President-elect Obama's prolix rhetoric.

  22. jerohm says:

    "The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit."

    This is a good marketing advise…

  23. Doug says:

    If only Leonid S. Sukhorukov were clever enough to write less.

  24. JazzDe Cou says:

    In one his of his lectures on music broadcast by radio, the late Dr. Karl Haas

    entitled a program on leitmotiv as "To make a short story long." Wasn't

    that saying a lot?

Leave a Reply