Brevity Reinforced

April 1st, 2007
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v5-4-Speaking OutAfter having written several columns for B.I.V., I have begun to receive feedback. “Your columns are a bit short, can you make them longer,” have been the most frequent comment. Well, there are basically two reasons for this. First, there are editorial constraints, and second, is my long lasting affair with brevity.

Let me explain. Starting during my early years, as president of my high school graduating class, I was required to give a speech lasting about 10 minutes. I accomplished the task in 3 minutes. My rationale? Why take 10 minutes to say what could be said in 3. I have always felt that a minute of thought is worth more than an hour of talk. Language is the expression of those thoughts, and every time you speak, your mind is on parade. Remember the old English saying? “He who thinks by the inch and talks by the yard, deserves to be kicked by the foot.” The trouble with the guy who talks too fast is that he frequently says something he hasn’t thought of yet. I say never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut. Besides, you can win more friends with your ears than with your mouth.

There are those who can talk for hours and actually say nothing. I have always marveled at this, I imagine it requires some skill as well. Many years ago an old professor told me: George, whenever addressing an audience, remember this simple rule “be sincere, be brief, and be seated.” This has proven to be very sound advice.

During my career as a secondary school administrator, the typical monthly after school faculty meeting, usually lasted for about an hour. On one occasion, the director was called away just prior to the start of the meeting and turned it over to me. The meeting lasted for the whole of 20 minutes. The result? I received a standing ovation from the faculty. “Blessed is he who, having nothing to say, refrains from giving wordy evidence of the fact”. In other words or in plain English, it is better to be silent and be considered a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. [/private]

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