You know the scene. Mozart presents his lengthy opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail to Emperor Joseph II. The emperor, with Salieri’s prompting, informs Mozart that his work is ingenious, but that "there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.”

Mozart, deeply offended, replies “Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?”


When I first heard of Brevity Quest, I confess I ignored it. Too busy in my little world to participate, as usual. Then I had a writeup blow through New Writeups in mere hours, propelled by a stream of “two-word poems.” Now, it's true that my writeup wasn’t all that great, and some poems were kinda cute. But I still found the whole thing annoying.

Fortunately, I soon quit sulking and took up the challenge. A few attempts later I remembered what years of legal writing had driven home. Anyone can get their point across with unlimited words, flaccid though the prose may be. True skill is required to do the job quickly and efficiently. As an associate once said, “I’ve got a ten-page draft for you. It would’ve been five, but I ran out of time.”

All too often the only difference between a short paper and a long one is the writer's ego. I admit to being an offender myself. And while there is certainly a place on e2 for longer factual writeups, the short, well-written writeup, factual or subjective, needs to remain a staple on this site.

Brevity Quest has reminded us of that.

Now the only problem is to separate the wheat from the chaff in the short writeups, and to allow long and short writeups to exist peacefully together. Fortunately, I have the perfect solution to this dilemma. All we have to do is . . .

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