Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Half As Long

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter. 
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Labor Students,

If there is a piece of advice that we would like to give you when writing your compositions and essays  is to keep them SHORT and SIMPLE:
  • Shorter is better
  • Use short words: never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Try to make it half as long...
And now, please watch this clip from the beautiful 1992 film 'A River Runs Through It' (from minute 5.43 to 7.16; transcription to follow). You will find the secret: HALF AS LONG.

...So it was with my formal education as well. Each weekday, while my father worked on his Sunday sermon I attended the school of the Reverend Maclean. He taught nothing but reading and writing. And being a Scot.... believed that the art of writing lay in thrift.
--Half as long.
So while my friends spent their days at Missoula Elementary I stayed home and learnt to write the American language.
--Again. Half as long.
--Good. Now throw it away.

(You can find the full transcription of this videoclip and of the complete film here)

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only.

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