In praise of brevity

The Art of Being Concise
Using One or Two Situation-Appropriate Words When Possible Instead of Several Words In Order to Communicate in a More Clear Fashion and To Increase How Effective One’s Use of Language Is.

So I finally did it. After years of fearing long-term commitment and a high-maintenance relationship, I’ve taken the plunge. Despite my fears, I knew this was what I really wanted, so I made the decision and went with it.

No, I’m not talking about a girl. I speak of The Economist. I now have a subscription to that famed British publication. Yes, you know the one…the one with a spartan use of pictures. The one that uses the term multilateral at least a few times every issue. The one in which a person can read in a single issue about landmark changes to the American welfare system, major developments in globalisation, the history of the Suez crisis & its impact on Arab-Western relations, Peru’s new president, bird flu in Indonesia, the publishing practices of French politicians, and a thoughtful article on the ethics of war.

At two dollars an issue, and with my needing reading material for my twice-daily 10- to 15-minute subway commutes, it was a deal too good to pass.

The quality of the writing in The Economist impresses me, and the vocabulary is more advanced than any American newspaper I’ve read. I enjoy the British quirks that come through (like the spelling of globalisation & sceptic, and the unblinking use of dodgy), and the magazine stimulates thought with careful, intelligent, and fair treatments of controversial issues.

But what delights me most is the–forgive me–economy of language in The Economist. I’ve culled a couple examples of compact adjectives, both from the July 29th–August 4th 2006 edition.

Mr Garcia is timid in part because his political position is shaky. A recent poll puts his approval rating at 50%, low for an incoming president. APRA has just 36 of the 120 seats in the unicameral legislature, compared with 42 for Mr Humala’s Union for Peru. (35)

Laloo Prasad Yadav, India’s railway minister, was known during the 15 years that he and his wife, Rabri Devi, were successive chief ministers of the state of Bihar, for his earthy realism and rustic lifestyle… (38)

Yet a thoughtful speech this week on public-health policy, the second of a series [Blair] is giving on domestic issues, inevitably had a valedictory ring to it. (56)

Thank you, John F, for sharing your love of the Economist.


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4 responses to “In praise of brevity

  1. Anonymous

    The Economist is a fantastic magazine. My brother, John F., introduced it to me as well. It takes me the whole week to read because of its density and variety of articles. Once made aware of the Economist, you notice how often others reference it.
    -Joe F.

  2. Phil

    We are also big fans. We are wondering if we will read it if we subscribe. probably not this year. Maybe next.

  3. Anonymous

    Har, har.
    I wonder how many caught the intentional contrast of verbosity in your title.

    Quite an example of hyper-polysyllabicsesquapedalianism (using long words.)


  4. Anonymous

    Over the last 5 years I’ve heard so much talk of the Economist, that I presumed you were already a subscriber!!

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