Monday, September 21, 2015

The wisdom of Blaise Pascal

“I have made this letter longer than usual
          because I lack the time to make it short.”

Death mask of Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
French mathematician, scientist, writer, philosopher

This is a pithy expression of what I think of as a deep truth: it’s more difficult to write concisely and well than it is to write at length and well.

My high school English teacher frequently made writing assignments to be completed on one side of an index card, and he made it clear that “if I can’t read it, your grade is F.”

I started learning at a tender age to pick words carefully and to work hard at using words to express my meaning explicitly and concisely.

As a college instructor, I often made similar writing assignments in class (sometimes with a 10-minute deadline) to force students to develop their ability to write brief, essential, meaningful statements.

Here’s the flavor of it:

Try writing an essay on patriotism on one side of a lined, 5x7 index card.

Take 10 minutes to write your definition of “management” on one of those cards.

I think you’ll agree those tasks are a lot harder than writing 500 words on either of those topics.

Thanks to my trusted personal advisor for this one.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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