Friday, March 20, 2009

Precisely Meaningful

I was talking to a client yesterday, who said he needed a report on a file. "Keep it pithy," he asked, "with as few words as possible." Pithy...precisely meaningful. I accepted the challenge, and was prepared to get started on the assignment immediately. However, something happened that I did not anticipate. Rather than wind down our conversation and bring it to the usual business-oriented end (many people I know in a purely professional sense are usually sensitive about the fact that time is money) our client explained to me that he developed an appreciation for brevity in writing when he was an English major in college. The class was asked to perform the following exercise: write an entire story, using only six words. His professor told the students that, years earlier, Ernest Hemingway had been faced with the same challenge. Our client said, "When I tell you what he wrote, you will see why he was Ernest Hemingway." He slowly, almost reverently, spoke the six words. The profound emotion contained in those six words had an immediate effect on me as I sat in stunned silence - hoping to gain composure in my voice before I spoke. "Yes," I said, "I do see why Ernest Hemingway was Ernest Hemingway." Precisely meaningful. Isn't that the mark of a great writer? the way, here is Hemingway's story, as it was told to me:

For Sale.
Baby Shoes.
Never Used.


  1. Ouch. That really packs a punch.

  2. By the way, 'pithy' is a fantastic word, don't you think?

  3. Yes, I do. It's very...well...pithy!