The Art of Brevity: How to Improve Writing When Adverbs Get in the Way

William Strunk Jr. was a professor of English at Cornell University who published The Elements of Style in 1918. One of his former students, E. B. White (author of such children’s classics as Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little), revised and expanded the original, which became a leading style manual for writers commonly referred to as Strunk & White. He had this to say about brevity:

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.

The quote is a wise instruction, but it still begs the question of why? I believe the best answer is this: In the 21st century, time is everyone’s most precious commodity. You may have important ideas, but there are many competing demands on people’s attention. To get your ideas across with as few words as possible, you must learn the art of brevity. Thomas Jefferson put it this way:

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