- Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind. Cicero
- Words in prose ought to express the intended meaning; if they attract attention to themselves, it is a fault. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. Thomas Jefferson
- Use familiar words—words that your readers will understand, and not words they will have to look up. No advice is more elementary, and no advice is more difficult to accept. James J. Kilpatrick
- Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. C.S. Lewis
- The letter I have written today is longer than usual because I lacked the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal
- One should aim not at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand. Quintilian
- If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams—the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. Robert Southey
- Vigorous writing is concise. …. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subject only in outline, but that every word tell. William Strunk and E. B. White
- Writing improves in direct ratio to the things we can keep out of it that shouldn’t be there. William Zinsser
- The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. George Orwell
- Anybody can have ideas—the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. Mark Twain
Number 10 is my favorite: … that every word tell. It’s important to see that the writers are not saying to use simplicity because you think your readers have simple minds. The challenge is to not let extra words get in the way of what you have to say.
And since we’re only a few days away from when U.S. taxes are due, I know you’ll get a kick out of this as you think about your tax forms: the origin of this list is from PlainLanguage.gov, a site dedicated to improving communication from the Federal government to the public.
How would you summarize the advice given in this list? Do you agree or disagree with it?