Brevity Is Beautiful

Brevity is my favorite aspect of effective communication. We’re limited creatures, only able to handle a few thoughts at once — make them count!

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Bravo! I wish more teachers would read this!
The analogy is right on.

Excellent Write Up !!!

Thanks for sharing.

You could have addressed the Expert’s Guilt section to me by name :slight_smile:

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kicauan, hkrnws, Hacker News, Thomas Buck, Kalid Azad and others. Kalid Azad said: New Post: Brevity Is Beautiful […]

This post could have been a little shorter :slight_smile:

@T Rose: Thanks Mr. Rose! Yeah, the paper length requirement (vs. idea requirement) always bothered me.

@Raghuraman: You’re welcome.

@MS: It’s one of the hardest things to resist – you learn something, and want to share every detail about it :).

Always had problems padding out essays. Why make it 2000 words when you can convey the same ideas in 1000 words.

k.i.s.s. - keep it simple stupid
k.i.s.s. - keep it short stupid

You can shorten the command line example.

sort foo.txt | uniq -c | sort -rn

I loved this line: “Writing isn’t about words, it’s about recreating ideas”. It reminds me of the “Language” section from “Design Principles Behind Smalltalk”.

[…] Models are simplifications, we all know this: assume an intelligent reader and don’t encumber your writing to satisfy every critic. Corner cases are exactly that, and should live away from the main text. via […]

I want to hug you.

Thanks Kalid for sharing your insights. I want to be your friend ha3. :slight_smile:

Most of what I wrote under “10 page requirements” was crap, and I can’t even remember what crap because I took it from Google :stuck_out_tongue:

Wonderful write up. I agree with every point(but to be honest I feel a bit silly now :slight_smile: ) But still, thanks so much for the great insight. I’ll remember it whenever I write next.

@steve: I like it! Exactly, asking for a “Word count” doesn’t make sense – ask for an idea count!

@Eric: Thanks, I had considered that but I prefer the explicit “cat” since it makes it easier to insert new commands (i.e. you want mycommand before the sort, now you have to remove foo.txt and feed it to mycommand… and if mycommand doesn’t take a filename (just stdin), you need to do a cat anyway).

I haven’t come across that book, it looks interesting! Yeah, it’s neat thinking about communication one level higher than the medium itself.

@Jake: Glad you liked it! :slight_smile:

@ajooy: Awesome, glad it helped. New friends always welcome, heh.

@Camilo: Yep, writing with an eye towards pagecounts makes takes you away from quality.

@Charu: Thanks! Yes, sometimes I write these posts so I have explicit instructions to myself :).


@R: Exactly.

Brevity, I could see in my most of my friends slang. Words like “Yo”, “Howdy”, “Wassup” for things that are used to express wishes.
This doesnt make people confused. Or people understand it clearly.

But in terms of code, not all people like brevity or not every one aware of it or not everyone accepts it ( Company’s own coding standards )

I’ve written code so concise, but still I was told to expand it.

var validName = !name.isBlank() && !name.containsSpecialChar()

I was told to rewrite as

if ( !name.isBlank() && !name.containsSpecialChar() ) { validName = TRUE } else { validName = FALSE }

@Mind: Yes, sometimes there are conflicting goals around readability and maintainability – brevity is good, but whitespace can be helpful too :). In this case, separating the conditions allows you to assign multiple related properties based on one test, or have custom logic (i.e. return early if invalid, etc.). A lot of this is a matter of design style though.

@khalid: Yes, I agree that I’m not opposing the styling concepts. But I would like to emphasize that for the sake of styling, we shouldn’t be. Coz, that piece of code sets only one property :-).