As the chatterbox Polonius puts it, “brevity is the soul of wit”. Much in the same way, the ‘concise’ has always been held in high regard by the most verbose of orators, leaders and activists. With Twitter we are seeing a resurgence of concise writing, but can tweets hope to be precise? Maybe they can.
A positive definition of precise writing: writing accurately only about what is at hand. Negatively put, precise means avoiding excess words and distractions, but a precise description could certainly be thorough if the matter is complex. Precise writing does not have to carry the burden of truth, ever the charge of sophistry aimed at rhetoricians, but it should be ethical: Precise writing is vigilant when carefully examining the relation between its own wording and the topic, not aiming for an objective correspondence, but rendering more clearly the contours of an argument from the writer. It means choosing the right words for the right effect: A simple act of description is the most persuasive argument, especially as it does not present itself as such. In this lies the danger and responsibility in precise wording and the exact turn of phrase.
How to concisely say precisely what you mean to? It seems the question confronts the two major causes of writers block, according to Graham Harman, nothingness and infinity.
Concise writing requires a precise view of things, should it hope to seize on the matter’s most poignant features. Saying infinitely much by writing next to nothing, it is a trust in the imagination of the reader, choosing the sufficient amount of detail to evoke the broader scope of things. It is in concise writing that writers confront the odd proportion between words and meaning, that great words do not in themselves convey great meaning: A juxtaposition of small words could easily convey a profound impression of great truth.