The Blessing of Brevity

A Motivational Message from Leadership Expert Jim Stovall

The time in which we live will forever be known as the information age. Our society has gone through an agricultural age, an industrial age, and a space age, among many others. But the element that has grown and expanded more than any other in recent years is information. While our ancestors struggled to get information, we battle to sort through it and get rid of copious amounts of it. As everyone around us is drowning in details, the art of brevity becomes very precious.

In a famous letter that Mark Twain sent to a friend of his, he closed the correspondence by apologizing for writing such a lengthy letter because he didn’t have time to write a short one. While this may seem like just another of Twain’s humorous anecdotes, in reality, it can be harder to be brief than to be verbose.

A highly respected graduate business professor assigned groups of his students to write a detailed business plan for a multinational conglomerate headquartered in a foreign country. The various groups of students had the semester to develop a detailed report of their recommendations for the corporation. At the end of the term, the students’ plans generally ran from 50 to 70 pages. The professor’s final assignment was for the students to take their lengthy report and reduce it to a 400-word telegram.

Brevity enhances communication and creates clarity. This is not just true for business students. After Warren Buffett acquires a new company, he generally leaves the management in place and tells them he wants to communicate through a one-page report they should send to him at the end of each year.

In our company, the Narrative Television Network, we make movies, television, and educational programming accessible for millions of blind and visually impaired people by inserting a narrator voice in between the existing dialogue to describe actions, settings, and the visual elements of the program. This process often leaves our team eight or ten seconds to describe a complex panoramic scene with multiple characters performing many tasks. Our writers and narrators have to determine the most important priorities that will communicate the program’s theme. Brevity is not only preferable, it is necessary.

One of the things that frustrates us all about many politicians, pundits, and thought-leaders is that they often answer a simple yes-or-no question with endless pages or multiple minutes of unwanted detail. Most of us only want as much information as it takes to make a decision and take action.

As you go through your day today, cut through the clutter and focus on brevity.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK  74145-9082; by email at; on Twitter at; or on Facebook at


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