Brevity…how many words do I need?
The Classic Camp
The Modernist Group
Striking a balance is ideal, but most writers and composition instructors are in favor of lean, active construction. The Greek philosopher, Pythagoras of Samos said it well: “Say not little in many words, but much in few”. For a man remembered for his mathematical theorem, he definitely had an angle on brevity.
As a middle school student, I clearly remember a brief explanation on brevity from my Language Arts teacher. Miss Alexander taught us “the length of an essay is like a girl’s skirt. Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting”. Her definition came at the height of the Women’s Movement, which explains why the skirt reference was indelibly marked in my brain decades later.
Putting It All Together
Different writing projects call for different approaches depending upon the audience. Product descriptions, business letters, and manifestos tend to run short. Business plans, articles and Curriculum Vitaes are typically long. The key is to have a clear understanding of what your writing needs are and what you hope to accomplish.