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In common usage and linguistics, concision (also called conciseness, succinctness,[1] brevity, or laconicism) is a communication principle[2] of eliminating redundancy,[3] generally achieved by using as few words as possible in a sentence while preserving its meaning. More generally, it is achieved through the omission of parts that impart information that was already given, that is obvious or that is irrelevant. Outside of linguistics, a message may be similarly "dense" in other forms of communication.

For example, a sentence of "It is a fact that most arguments must try to convince readers, that is the audience, that the arguments are true." may be expressed more concisely as "Most arguments must demonstrate their truth to readers." – the observations that the statement is a fact and that readers are its audience are redundant, and it is unnecessary to repeat the word "arguments" in the sentence.[4]

"Laconic" speech or writing refers to the pithy bluntness that the Laconian people of ancient Greece were reputedly known for.[5]

Statements of the principle[edit]

Polymath Blaise Pascal wrote in a 1657 letter:[6]

William Strunk and E. B. White's The Elements of Style, an American English style guide, says of concision that:[2]

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. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Joseph M. Williams's Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace suggests six principles for concision:[7]

  1. Delete words that mean little or nothing.
  2. Delete words that repeat the meaning of other words.
  3. Delete words implied by other words.
  4. Replace a phrase with a word.
  5. Change negatives to affirmatives.
  6. Delete useless adjectives and adverbs.

Concision is taught to students at all levels.[8][9][10] It is valued highly in expository English writing, but less by some other cultures.[11]

Importance in pedagogy[edit]

In an influential study by educational psychologist Richard E. Mayer and others, succinctness of textbook and lecture content was linked to better understanding of the material.[12]

In computing[edit]

In computing, succinct data structures balance minimal storage use against efficiency of access.[13] In algorithmic game theory, a succinct game is one that may be accurately described in a simpler form than its normal representation.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2009). Garner on Language and Writing: Selected Essays and Speeches of Bryan A. Garner. Chicago: American Bar Association. p. 295. ISBN 978-1-60442-445-4.
  2. ^ a b William Strunk (1918). The Elements of Style.
  3. ^ UNT Writing Lab. "Concision, Clarity, and Cohesion." Accessed June 19, 2012. Link.
  4. ^ Program for Writing and Rhetoric, University of Colorado at Boulder. "Writing Tip #27: Revising for Concision and Clarity." Accessed June 19, 2012. Link. Archived 2012-06-14 at the Wayback Machine ""It is a fact that most arguments must try to convince readers, that is the audience, that the arguments are true." Notice the beginning of the sentence: "it is a fact that" doesn't say much; if something is a fact, just present it. So begin the sentence with "most arguments..." and turn to the next bit of overlap. Look at "readers, that is the audience"; the redundancy can be reduced to "readers" or "audience." Now we have "Most arguments must try to convince readers that the arguments are true." Let's get rid of one of the "arguments" to produce "Most arguments must demonstrate (their) truth to readers," or a similarly straightforward expression."
  5. ^ Leslie Kurke, Aesopic Conversations: Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue, and the Invention of Greek Prose, Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 131–2, 135.
  6. ^ Lejeune, Anthony (2001). The Concise Dictionary of Foreign Quotations. Taylor & Francis. p. 73. ISBN 9781579583415. OCLC 49621019.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  7. ^ Moskey, Stephen T.; Williams, Joseph M. (March 1982). "Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace". Language. 58 (1): 254. doi:10.2307/413569. ISSN 0097-8507. JSTOR 413569. S2CID 33626209.
  8. ^ Sandy Buczynski, Kristin Fontichiaro, Story Starters and Science Notebooking: Developing Student Thinking Through Literacy and Inquiry (2009), p. 7, ISBN 1591586860.
  9. ^ Patrick Dunleavy, Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation (2003), p. 273, ISBN 023036800X.
  10. ^ Legal Writing Institute, Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute (2002), Vol. 7, p. 32.
  11. ^ Mark Newell Brock, Larry Walters, Teaching Composition Around the Pacific Rim: Politics and Pedagogy (1992), p. 4-5, ISBN 1853591602. "in expository prose English places a high value on conciseness... [t]he value placed on conciseness... is not shared by all cultures"
  12. ^ Mayer, Richard E.; Bove, William; Bryman, Alexandra; Mars, Rebecca; Tapangco, Lene (March 1996). "When less is more: Meaningful learning from visual and verbal summaries of science textbook lessons". Journal of Educational Psychology. 88 (1): 64–73. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.88.1.64. ISSN 1939-2176.
  13. ^ Jacobson, G. J (1988). Succinct static data structures.
  14. ^ Papadimitriou, C.H. (2007). "The Complexity of Finding Nash Equilibria". In Nisan, Noam; Roughgarden, Tim; Tardos, Éva; et al. (eds.). Algorithmic Game Theory. Cambridge University Press. pp. 29–52. ISBN 978-0-521-87282-9.

External links[edit]