Friday, August 11, 2006

Writing Less is More

A colleague of mine told me over lunch that he had attended a faculty meeting a few years ago in which the assistant department head had proposed that articles for tenure, promotion, and merit be of a certain quality and a certain length. My colleague stood up and registered a protest, stating that faculty have a moral obligation to write as little as necessary. In other words, don't spend 10 pages when 5 will do. His comment was met with silence and arched eyebrows.

I am not sure of the moral obligation, will have to think about that more. But I do think that using length as a criterion for quality is wrongheaded. This same friend told me, apropos of this incident, that he wrote short books, and rued that he probably would have had more acclaim if his books had been longer.

Give me a short volume any day. When I read Don Quixote for the first time while on sabbatical several years ago, I marveled at how repetitive it was. I cried out, Miguel, where was your copy editor? But I have been told by our resident Cervantes scholar that the tale of the Knight of the Rueful Figure was not edited as books are today.

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