The incessant call to keep written communication short – the one-page memo, bullet points and, now, text messages and tweets – may be one way of addressing information overload. But is this practice sound when the priority is to be clear?

Defenders of clarity, take heart. This view from the Harvard Business Review, written in 2009, continues to ring true today:

When Clarity is Not the Same as Brevity

So, is shorter really better?




  1. Jean-Louis Tramus 1 May 2014 at 7:18 am

    The English language if full of nuances. Good communication should be succinct, but that finesse can disappear in brevity. Tone, too, can be distorted. Whether a document is short or long, the draftsmanship is what matters. That takes skill. And it seems today that good writing is hard to find, especially in the workplace. Perhaps that’s because writing a short, clear text takes time, not only to draft but to revise and edit down to a length that will attract the reader and still get the message across well.

    So it’s a complicated matter that in my view is more difficult than providing headings, indexes and so forth, or good organization. That helps but as all things that are worth it, time and effort (and practice) are essential to good communication. As Mark Twain is often cited as having said: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time”.


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