Departments

Brevity

It is the lesson of poetry that more can be said briefly than can be said at any length. Brevity is wit itself. All comebacks are laconic. All attacks should be surprises. Quotations and proverbs contract with time. The short version on the lips, not the rambling original in books, gives the author credit and fame. Repetition for rhetorical effect may be eloquence; variation may be illumination; but most repetition is redundancy, and most variation is timidity or vanity. Something is always sacrificed to padded page or word counts, or to the smearing thin of thick, subtle concepts to lubricate the passage of a dromedary audience through the needle's-eye of understanding. Eloquence that must be dug out is eloquence buried alive. What the mind retains of prose is its flensed, poetic skeleton. Digressions may be ends in themselves; but illustrations and examples are passed over or forgotten, if not burnt in as metaphors. If you write to instruct, ineloquence is inevitable. Prose is not poetry; but even in prose you must have a poet's discipline, and a poet's commitment: better lost than found for the wrong reason.