The Grammarphobia Blog

The long and the short of it

Q: Your posting on whether a legal document can “state” something reminded me of my days editing in a law office. The attorneys used to say they wrote such long-winded briefs because they got paid by the word.

A: Mark Twain was sometimes paid by the word too, but he came to a different conclusion. He had this to say in praise of short words and short-windedness:

“I never write ‘metropolis’ for seven cents, because I can get the same money for ‘city.’ I never write ‘policeman,’ because I can get the same price for ‘cop.’”

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