I am not a giver of advice: no dispenser of knowledge, me. Not a wisdom sharer, nor a wistful sage. I couldn’t describe myself as a humble suggestion-maker, and I doubt my credentials as an imparter of tips. I ain’t no life-hacker, is what I’m trying to declare. But if, contrarily, I was to give one piece of advice; if I were, so to speak, to assume the role of one who passes on what one has discovered, through trial, error, error and bumble; or by happy accident; or via chance encounter with a water closet graffito—I should think it should be this: Keep it short.
The shorter the better! Modern people have no time to trawl through sentences worth of tawdry dressing, at each one thinking: is this the meat or is it garnish? Such a thought, oft repeated in the midst of a dense bushy paragraph, can give even rare and delicate distinctions a distinctly salady feel. And who has time for salad?
Keep it short. Look at McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it. Incredible! Three simple words, and they say absolutely nothing. And that whistle, with it’s slight reference to the motorola ring tone, that sneaks into your head at 3.40 AM after a long night of thinking too many words at once. And stays there. And stays there. But actually: McDonald’s. No fucking salad. A meat and a bread.
But even better would be just a meat. I remember long days of putting off reading for my philosophy degree, eventually arguing my way down half a page of Mill or Hobbes, tears in my eyes, blood coming from my fingernails and ears, asking, aloud: why don’t people just say what they mean. And leave it at that.
Everyone knows that Karl Marx is haunting Europe. Everyone knows that Hobbes is nasty, poor, brutish and short. Everyone knows that Rousseau was born in chains. Why didn’t they just leave it at that? Why did they tarnish their reputations by vaguening their interesting gobbets by surrounding them with tedious explanations, illustrations and refutations of competing tidbits?
Yes, keep it short. Literally no statement whatsoever can not be improved by decimation, and then further such reductions. Why not cross out a rhetorical question? Improve your presentation by giving less of it. Enhance your blog with minimalism. Why even blog? Tweet. Or even better, just re-tweet. Because face it, with 7 billion people and counting on this globe, what makes you think that you’re going to be the person who thinks of something interesting?
Because when you don’t keep it short, you are making a ludicrous assumption: that anyone is interested. Honestly, we’ve all got our internal monologue going on, and the longer you talk, the less we’re listening and the more we’re thinking: shut up, you cunt. So if you don’t want people internally calling you a cunt for interrupting their own self-obsessed, repetitive, probably insane omni-narrative (insert the whistle from the McDonald’s advert, like, right here), then you should try and keep it short.
And if you don’t care about that, you should still keep it short, because then you won’t have to do as much preparation, there will be less chance of repetition, and you will be less tempted to make up a fact to fill a gap, that would probably come back and embarrass you if anyone was listening. But nobody is listening! Welcome to the world, you’re talking to yourself!
But if you’ve considered all the facts, and you still want to say something, then keep it short. Or I suppose you could just make it interesting. But even then, the golden super daddy is: short AND interesting. If you could follow both those rules then you’d definitely get a book deal or a gig on Ted Talks or a sports car or whatever it is that you want to get out of your short, interesting life.
Anyway, I genuinely can’t reiterate enough the comparative merit of getting to the point, and staying there only long enough to deliver your message. I mean, have you ever saw a movie and thought: if only that was longer? Of course not! Like me, from the opening credits onwards you wait, with one hand on your jacket collar and the other clasped on your umbrella handle, for the closing titles and your invitation to go home and think about yourself in peace. To paraphrase Lucky Jim, this is yet further evidence that short things are better than long things, and incomparably better than the longest thing. The logical conclusion, I now realize, is not just to keep it short, but perhaps not to say it at all.
So in conclusion, if you can in any way avoid it, don’t do it at all, but, if after the deepestmost reflection, if after a complete analysis of your species being, if after and only after first assuring yourself of the world’s need for your insight, you decide you must be heard, then let me beg of you, please, please: be concise. Abridge it. Make it succinct and terse, with no deviations. Keep it short.