Arjun Badola

Brevity in writing

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Brevity in writing should always be appreciated.

From our schools and colleges we have been taught to write in minimum word count which is making us write more words than required (by setting a high minimum word count).

It has happened in my law school exams where I could cover the answer in less than 400 words by precise use of words but I had to increase the word count to match the required minimum world count. I understand that setting a minimum word count in exams is a means to avoid conflict later from clever students who might not know the answer and write a few lines without actually covering the topic and later argue that there was no world count requirement mentioned, but the cost of that is paid by everyone.

The concept of writing long answers has been taught to us a lot. Long ago, lawyers were paid on a per-word basis which ultimately led to use of unnecessary words while drafting any work and such methodology is still engraved in law schools.

I remember in my 3rd or 4th grade class I had to write an essay on cows in India. I always used to run out of words, which led me to writing a lot of unnecessary words. But it can be argued that at such an early age one should force themselves to write more and later focus on brevity.

For example this famous quote from Mark Twain who once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.”, explains the situation perfectly. It is harder to write a shorter form essay, as one requires deep thinking for the elimination process of what is important and covers the essence of the topic without use of unnecessary terms.

In today’s world brevity is highly appreciated. People have less attention span to read long form essays and less time to spare from their busy lifestyle. Now if you come up with a 2000 word essay which could have been done away in 500 words then that’s a crime. Wasting your readers’ time is a crime which many writers commit, including me.

Writing more words would subconsciously make you feel that it is better and more intellectual. I admit that in the past, perhaps even in future as well, I have written more words just to make it look better. 2-3 pages full of words felt better than half a page worth of content. Now when I write any essay on my personal blog I try to be very specific but I would admit when I write business analysis, I unintentionally end up writing a lot (I am still in the process of improving myself there).

One great way to make an essay specific is via writing down the questions directly which the reader would have while reading the essay or have about that topic. Just don’t randomly explain a topic rather hit the misconception you are explaining and why it is important to know.

I feel this is one of the best frameworks to write an essay in.

Directly starting with the point of the essay and clearing out the counter thoughts would make the reader understand better and feel satisfied. If you are afraid of writing in paragraphs, use bullet points! Just make sure to hit the main point at the start itself.


Brevity should always be preferred over long forms which might be unnecessary. But be careful, some topics do require one to explain in detail and with multiple examples. Don’t end up setting brevity as your goal at the cost of clarity of the topic.

Thanks to Heddwen Newton and Joe Ray for reading draft of this.