(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
Stephen F. Hayward in Churchill on Leadership (Forum, 1997):
[Churchill] complained regularly that reports and memoranda were too verbose.The end. Good-bye.
“This paper,” he complained in cabinet one day, “by its very length defends itself against the risk of being read.”
“A daily report should be limited to one page, and the weekly report should be a well-digested summary," he instructed in the fall of 1940.
Two months later, he wrote in exasperation to his senior aides: “Please look at this mass of stuff which reaches me in a single morning . . . More and more people must be banking up behind these different papers, the bulk of which defeats their purpose. Try now and simply, shorten and reduce.” . . .
He lived by what he called “the commandment” to “Say what you have to say as clearly as you can and in as few words as possible.”
An example of his inclination to brevity can be found in an editorial change he made in the Conservative Party platform of 1950. Churchill shortened “It is our intention to initiate consultations with the Unions” to “We shall consult with the Unions.” (p. 106)