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October 19, 1963


JAMA. 1963;186(3):276. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03710030116038

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On Brevity  "If I had more time, I would write you a shorter letter," is a saying that has been variously attributed—Voltaire has as good a claim as any to its authorship. The merit of the remark is not restricted to letters, for there are relatively few compositions that cannot be improved by making them shorter. It is said that Rudolph Virchow almost never corrected his writings, but would dash off virtually a finished draft the very first time. This is, indeed, admirable virtuosity, but most people who read Virchow today believe that his writings would have been much improved had he revised and shortened them... and then revised them some more. As with letters and most other forms of writing, so too with book reviews. It is much harder to write a good short book review than a long one.If there is no rein on length, an author—and

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