I have a dear friend who’s a lawyer. I don’t hold that against him, and he doesn’t hold it against me that I’m not. One of the things we have in common are words. He, as seems most lawyers, loves them in great quantities. I prefer pithy and to-the-point. Therein lies a story repeated daily across the world.
Take Rush Limbaugh [please!]. Today’s headline reads: “A Rush To Leave Limbaugh.” Short, cute, to the point. My friend says you can’t stop there, you need all the facts. My answer is I’ve got the only fact I need right in that headline. Actually headline after headline. You see, while you can’t headline a scientific report or a historical biography, you can the daily drone of daily news.
The pithy and to-the-point is an art-form. Consider political wits like Bill Maher (liberal) and Dennis Miller (conservative). They can, in one slashing line, cut through mounds of political blubber to hit the very nerve-center of wordy issues like contraception, gay marriage, and taxing the rich. To prove the point, watch — sympathetically — as wordy politicians try to stand toe to toe with these wits on a stage or in front of a camera.
This is not to say brief is always better. But it most emphatically is to say it takes a keen mind to find the bottom line to what the bubble-heads try to say speech after speech. Or as Mark Twain once told his audience: “I’m sorry I took so long, but I didn’t have enough time to make my speech shorter.”
Talking about contraception, there was a recent headline about a New Orleans sanctuary where two chimpanzees became pregnant even though all the males had been given vasectomies. The newspaper could have offered a detailed medical analysis. However, do I really need to know all those facts when I can’t tell one chimp from another? A much better and shorter story would be: Can the chimps tell one of us from another? Or, frankly, do they even give damn?
You see, my friends, we are inundated with billions of daily words and bytes. And yet the dazzling growth in the quantity of facts offers little assurance their quality has grown as well. Take another example of where to-the-point has a point. NASA astronomers have detected a 460-foot-wide asteroid heading our way. There are oodles of delicious facts they can present. But really now, fellas, all I need to know is your target date. February 2040. Frankly, that means anyone over 60 like me doesn’t have to give a damn.
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