8 Replies to “Churchill on Brevity”

  1. In the present age of friction-less,unlimited scattering of words and pictures, it seems right to add to WSC’s principles one more, that every text should be made skim-able. That is, capable of being read in summary form, with headings, underlining or bold type, before being read fully, if thought worth it.

  2. It reminds of the young officer’s wife who placed at a dinner next to the formidable General Sir Frank Kitson and said ‘My husband has bet me that I can’t get more than 2 words out of you all evening’ to which Kitson replied ‘You lose’ and ignored her for the rest of the evening.

  3. George Orwell made a good contribution in 1946. They are reproduced in various places including here:
    http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/george-orwells-5-rules-for-effective-writing/

    Here they are without the commentary:
    1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.

  4. This is fascinating and genuinely historic. Note the top left corner…

    This was sent at the height of the Battle of Britain, and marked SECRET!

    It must point to WSC having a really bad day. A completely pointless note – not because it’s wrong, of course. But the people most in need of this sort of advice:

    1. Never read it (or hear it) because they’re too busy writing (or saying) something themselves and can’t imagine anyone else having anything of importance to say to them.
    2. Never imagine that it could possibly apply to their carefully constructed letters/speeches/emails…

    It also suggests that today, WSC would be one of those people who have their email defaults set so ALL their emails are “high priority”.

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