Brevity

Brevity is a highly prized attribute of communication in school and workplace contexts. Learn how to identify the absence and presence of brevity in your writing and the texts of others. Use brevity (along with flow, simplicity and unity) to create a professional writing style.      
Sunrise over a cotton field with mountains in the distance. Brevity. Sunrise over a cotton field with mountains in the distance. Brevity.

Definition

Brevity is an aesthetic judgment made by a reader, audience, or user about the absence or presence of wordiness or unnecessary information/data in a text.

Not surprisingly — who isn’t in a hurry these days? — brevity is a highly prized linguistic attribute. Brevity is often associated with clarity, the ultimate goal of most communications.

Synonyms

direct, succinct, terse, straightforward, succinctness, terseness

Related Concepts: Edit for Brevity; Styles of Writing


Importance: Why Does Brevity Matter?

Brevity is one of the most important attributes of written or spoken. Brevity avoids static: unnecessary information.

Less is more.

Robert Browning

Prior to the internet texts were expensive to produce and challenging to distribute. Writers had somewhat captive audiences, and, on occasion, they could enjoy the stage a bit too much and launch into wordy prose, unnecessary details, and anecdotal, writer-based prose.

Now, however, thanks to the internet, we have loads of options. Our senses are bombarded with more information than ever before:

  • 1.7MB of data is created every second by every person during 2020.
  • In the last two years alone, the astonishing 90% of the world’s data has been created.
  • 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced by humans every day.
  • 463 exabytes of data will be generated each day by humans as of 2025.
  • 95 million photos and videos are shared every day on Instagram.
  • By the end of 2020, 44 zettabytes will make up the entire digital universe.
  • Every day, 306.4 billion emails are sent, and 5 million Tweets are made” (Techjury).

So . . . what’s the bottom line?

If you want readers who respect you, who keep with you to the end of the sentence, then you’ve got to take a hard look at your texts and attempt to make them as concise as possible.

In a world where billions of instant messages and emails are sent daily, brevity is a virtue. People love conciseness. They respect writers and leaders who can explain difficult matters simply. Unfortunately, many writers use sentences that are too wordy.  This is not to suggest that lengthy sentences can never be used but most of the time writers make the mistake of using more words than necessary to get their message across. 

Additional Resources

Works Cited

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000. New York: Pocket Books, 2002. Print.

Strunk, William, Jr. and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2000. Print.