Don’t quote me on that …

Two letters from Wednesday’s edition of the Financial Times attribute a quote about the difficult of writing a short speech or letter rather than a much longer one to two different sources. Financial Times letters

Pascale’s quote is translated as “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.”

Woodrow Wilson’s quote is variously represented as

If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.

The debate over who to attribute the quote to has been analyzed in depth by the Quote Investigator — an invaluable resource — which finds evidence for a number of sources including Woodrow Wilson; Abraham Lincoln; Rufus Choate; Thomas B. Macaulay; William Howard Taft and Mark Twain.

No matter the degree of difficulty, the final word on the value of short speeches goes to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.

Mini Skirts

However, the Quote Investigator finds that Churchill was re-stating a saying that had been in circulation for over 20 years.

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