July 14, 2011 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a quote! Its something along the lines of "keep it short and simple" or "1 page of quality writing is better than 10" (obviously more eloquently worded) I Think it was Wilde or Poe but my google-fu has failed me

I think it may have been in the context of someone writing a letter to a friend and it starting out having 10 pages and going down to 4 and then to 1, but maybe my memory is failing me!
posted by freddymetz to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” - Mark Twain?
posted by GuyZero at 3:31 PM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Blaise Pascal:
Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.
I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.
posted by adamrice at 3:31 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it any of these?
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:43 PM on July 14, 2011

'Simplify, Simplify, Simplify' -Thoreau ?
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:20 PM on July 14, 2011

"Brevity is the soul of wit." - Shakespeare (Hamlet)?
posted by hot soup girl at 4:28 PM on July 14, 2011

Poe has a couple of quotes about how there shouldn't be any spare sentences in a short story. I was thinking of a different one but found this: "A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it." Not quite what you'd mentioned but maybe the reason you were thinking of him?
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:41 PM on July 14, 2011

"Omit needless words," or words to that effect, E. B. White in "The Elements of Style"
posted by fivesavagepalms at 4:57 PM on July 14, 2011

these are great guys! Im probably thinking about the blaise pascal one! There was another one though, i swear it mentioned writing a letter.. hmm!
posted by freddymetz at 5:34 PM on July 14, 2011

Two quotes that spring to mind:

"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." - Thomas Jefferson

"Never use a large word when a diminutive one will suffice." - hmmm...memory's failing me. Mark Twain, perhaps?

Some Googling also turned up this page - I can't vouch for the accuracy, but perhaps the quote you're looking for is among the ones here. Just scroll down & you'll see them. I didn't see anything from Poe or Wilde, though.
posted by pecanpies at 6:54 PM on July 14, 2011

Yeah, the more I think about it, that second quote doesn't sound like Twain at all. I know I've heard or read it before, but I just can't place it. Think it's time for bed!
posted by pecanpies at 6:56 PM on July 14, 2011

George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language makes a similar point, although I'm not sure it contains the quote you're looking for.
posted by Gymnopedist at 8:12 PM on July 14, 2011

Kill your darlings? don't know who said it.
posted by sully75 at 9:03 PM on July 14, 2011

One of my faves:

"The length of this document defends it well against the risk of its being read." - Winston Churchill
posted by skypieces at 9:39 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Murder your darlings" is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, but it's aimed more at not being too clever or precious rather than at being too long-winded.
posted by Logophiliac at 10:01 PM on July 14, 2011

I always liked Twain's "eschew surplusage."
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:32 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

That Jefferson quote has four "extra" words in it.
posted by maxwelton at 12:35 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brevity is the soul of wit.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:09 AM on July 15, 2011

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