Words: less is more

(or perhaps that should be “fewer are more”)

At the weekend, and quite by accident, I met the Magna Carta.  We took an impromptu trip to Salisbury and thence to the cathedral which owns one of only four remaining copies of the original great charter of 1215 (I now know).

What struck me most about this 800 year old cornerstone of English law, and antecedent of the United States Constitution, was its length.  At around 3,600 words, it is scribed on a single sheet of vellum just larger than an A3 sheet of paper.

Of similarly admirable brevity, the Gettysburg Address is around 275 words.  Kids memorise it for school.

By contrast, during last autumn’s political conference season, the Labour leader Ed Milliband spoke for 65 minutes and all we now remember is what he forgot.

It’s not just politicians.  Today’s business leaders also measure the value of their words by the minute.  I’ve sat through more than my share of presentations that were not so much death as water-boarding-by-PowerPoint; 12 hour series of back-to-back key-notes.

Always, always, always – less is more.

The Salisbury Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta is believed to be the best preserved

The Salisbury Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta


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