Jul 30 2015
In a previous blog, I defined “brevity” as being the key to success. Click here if you’d like to read it again – it’s very good. However, I neglected to explain just what brevity meant. Well, allow me to expand. According to an online dictionary, brevity is described as, “brevity is a noun that means the attribute of being brief or fleeting. The noun brevity means shortness or conciseness. If you give a report on agriculture in the northern hemisphere in 3 minutes, you have done it with incredible brevity. Brevity comes from brevis, which means “brief” in Latin.”. The definition itself is not terribly brief at all, making a mockery of the word itself. A rival online dictionary (I forget the name, but will look it up later) gives this definition, “the use of few words to say something: the quality or fact of lasting only for a short period of time.” The brevity of this definition of brevity is extra pleasing. (I’ve looked it up – it was webster.com and the first one was vocabulary.com).
Now, I remember the first time I ever encountered the premise of brevity. It was a cloudy Tuesday afternoon, and I was embarking on a ferry ride across the Tyne with a couple of pals. Or was it a Wednesday? No, it was definitely a Tuesday. I remember well, as I was toying with using an Orange Wednesday voucher, and I said to one of my associates (or was it the other one? – actually, I recall I said it to both at once, “lets not go to the cinema today, lets go tomorrow, as I’ve got an Orange Wednesday voucher and it will be cheaper”), thus definitely making it a Tuesday on account of Wednesday being the following day.
As I was saying, the friend with the onion attached to his belt (I neglected to mention that one of my friends had an onion attached to his belt – I’ll come back to that later) introduced me to the concept of “brevity”. “Don’t waffle Jack.” he said in his deep booming Bristolian accent. (I forgot to mention that he was Bristolian, hence the onion!).”Stick to the point”, he said “avoid going off on tangents, and try to never put unnecessary details in brackets” (Advice that I’m proud to say that I took on board on that cloudy Tuesday afternoon).
My interest was piqued, and I pressed my acquaintance for more details. (I realise that I have referred to him (for he was a “he”) as a friend, a pal, and now an acquaintance. Don’t be confused dear reader, this is merely a bloggers trick for keeping variety in their writing – friend, pal and acquaintance are “synonyms” meaning that they mean the same thing! I was not discussing “brevity” with three different people. That would be ridiculous.) As we approached approximately a third of the way across the mighty river, he put down his falafel, reattached his prosthetic, sat down, and told me some of the most poignant and memorable tips about “brevity” I had ever heard. (Interestingly, he used to refer to the delicious middle eastern snack falafel using only two syllables – “flafel”, where I always (and correctly , might I point out) use three – fa la fel – the third man on our outing, who hasn’t featured much in this tale yet pronounced it with four syllables, but that is not terribly relevant to the story of brevity). Also, if you’re interested to know what my deep voiced, onion wearing, syllable missing friend’s prosthetic was, then I’m afraid you’re missing the point of brevity – unnecessary details will not be gone into in this piece.
Anyway, as I was saying, Limpy Pete regaled me with the joy of brevity. “People don’t need to know every detail Jack. Leave a little out. Let them fill in the gaps”. He said, picking up a falafel (aka flafel aka falafafel) and dipping into a picante sauce before eating it in two approximately equal bites. “Blogging and close up magic are two areas where, more often than not, less is more”. By this he meant, well to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what he meant, because from then on he just stared vacantly into the distance, casually stroking his onion and using his prosthetic to scratch the small of his back.
In order to make sense of his words, I turned to my other companion on the journey, Stuttery Dave. He was reasonably quick to pad out the details of Pete’s philosophies, though also keen on foreign snacking, he did so in between mouthfuls of Monster Munch (admittedly, Monster Munch aren’t usually considered an exotic delicacy, but Dave had got a large box of these from the pound shop on Nile Street, and the labels were in Polish). “Stick to the point Jack. Avoid going off on tangents”. Although this was wise, I realised he had just repeated Pete’s line from earlier. “Expand”, I demanded. “Mmmmnnnnnmmmm”, explained Dave, having just squeezed two “potwór chrupać” (one pickled onion, and one flaming hot) into his mouth at once.
By now, we had reached the South Side of the river, and even though our plan was to ride the Ferry back and forth for a whole day we were legally required to disembark before boarding again (politacal correctness gone mad). We planned to sit in different seats for each leg of our adventure, only stopping (hopefully after an even number of crossings (otherwise we would be stranded on the wrong side of the river)) when we had run out of seats, or had succumbed to violent seasickness. As we climbed back up the ramp, Pete (now unpacking his return leg snacking of Nasi Goreng), grabbed my laptop to read back my blog so far. (I may have neglected to mention that I was documenting the outing as it actually happened)
“This is shocking!”, he exclaimed, spitting out some of his wholesome Indonesian fried rice. “You have totally missed the point of brevity. What on earth has the number of syllables in flafel got to do with anything, and also, the pound shop is on Saville Street not Nile Street you cretin”.
I was gobsmacked. I was sure I knew my streets of North Shields really accurately. I was also deeply upset that I had not understood the concept of brevity. “Please could you rewrite this with brevity in mind” I pleaded, wiping rice, garlic, sesame paste and sambal oelek from my cheek.
“Certainly. A wise friend once told me to stop waffling, and get to the point”
And that is how, one cloudy Tuesday afternoon, crossing alternately between North and South Tyneside with a pair of weirdos, I learned an important lesson about ditching the rubbish, and sticking to the point. Or was it a Wednesday. No. It was definitely Tuesday.