Why Is Brevity So Rare?

BLOG #9, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
WHY IS BREVITY SO RARE?
March 4, 2015

I really didn’t know just how difficult it was to be brief until one day, in Colorado Springs, when I delivered a one-minute short for Focus on the Family. There, in that broadcast studio, the sound people were all business. Their injunction all too precise: “We need a 60-second short from you—not 59 or 58, and not 61 or 62. Just 60 seconds.” And so we did take after take after take before I finally completed my task in exactly 60 seconds.

As a story anthologist, I’m always searching for powerful short stories I can read on the air. Believe me, they are mighty rare!

Same for poems. One of my favorite poets is the late Edgar A. Guest, one of the most beloved folk poets America has ever known. In one particular poem, he pulled off a twelve-line masterpiece that captured the essence of one of the most difficult words to perfectly define in the English language. Here it is:

WISDOM

This is wisdom, maids and men:
Knowing what to say and when.

Speech is common; thought is rare;
Wise men choose their words with care.

Artists with the master touch
Never use one phrase too much.

Jesus, preaching on the Mount,
Made His every sentence count.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
Needs not one word more nor less.

This is wisdom, maids and men:
Knowing what to say and when.

From Guest’s A Heap O’ Living Along Life’s Highway (Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1916)

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Guest was my dad’s favorite poet. It was good to read this today.

  2. “The less said, the better.”

  3. Love this!!!!

  4. I believe pastors can learn a lesson from your post. It would be a good idea for them to time their sermons and not speak for more than 25 minutes. Our pastor consistently preaches fifteen to twenty minutes past 12. I am gone five minutes past the hour, because I feel if he cannot close by then whatever he says after that is meaningless.


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