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Quotes on Simplicity and Writing

Some quotes on simplicity as a contribution to this month’s theme.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. (Leonardo da Vinci)

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. (Albert Einstein)

A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life (Winston Churchill)

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. (Chopin)

“Think simple” as my old master used to say - meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles. (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone. (Albert Einstein)

Do you have any particular favourites from that list?

Any other great quotes on simplicity, writing, art and life that you could add to this selection?

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  1. J.D. Meier says:

    I’m a fan of quotes. Great picks.

    I always liked …

    “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
    - Mark Twain

    … it’s a reminder that simplicity is artful.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Lessons Learned from Peaceful Warrior

  2. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, Superb quotes! I believe Blaise Pascal said something similar to Twain’s quote, and it’s always been one of my favorites. Achieving simplicity in writing is far more difficult than blathering on. I like Einstein’s quote. In college I read a book he wrote for laymen about his Theory of Relativity. It was amazing how he was able to explain it in terms anyone could understand.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Announcing! Cell Phone Contest Prizes

  3. Robert Hruzek says:

    Here’s a good one:

    “There is a certain majesty in simplicity which is far above all the quaintness of wit.” - Alexander Pope.

    I like that, “…certain majesty…” bit.

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..It’s a Snap!

  4. Bo says:

    As a photographer, I have this quotation copied on the inside cover of my journal:

    “What’s really important is to simplify. The work of most photographers would be improved immensely if they could do one thing: get rid of the extraneous. If you strive for simplicity, you are more likely to reach the viewer.” — William Albert Allard

    I’ve always thought that good advice for all the parts of my life.

    Bos last blog post..A Wisconsin Alphabet - The Beginning

  5. Jim Hughes says:

    The older I get, the more I appreciate simplicity.

    Jim Hughess last blog post..Grief: “Please tell me how to do it.”

  6. SpaceAgeSage -- Lori says:

    I rather like one
    “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ~Dalai Lama

    SpaceAgeSage — Loris last blog post..Relationship (or leadership) is not about control

  7. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    J.D. Thanks for the quote - and the reminder that you have to work at simplicity. Like Brad I had heard a similar comment from Pascal - it’s obviously one of those ideas that spreads… because it’s so valid.

    Brad, the ability to simplify science seems to be a remarkable art indeed. What I like about the Einstein approach is that it goes so far beyond the ‘look at me I’m clever and I’ll prove it with long words’ brigade, to ‘let me use my mind and my gifts to explain this the best way I can’

    Robert, I like that quote too, though I haven’t heard it before. ‘Certain majesty’ makes me think of the stillness of a mountain, or a giant tree…

    Bo, thank you for sharing that quote. I enjoy looking at quotes from other disciplines (like music, or architecture, or dance, or photography) and seeing how they can apply to writing… or more to the point, as you say, to life.

    Jim, me too.

    Lori, wow, that’s spine tinglingly simple. This is a great example of how the plainest of words and shortest of sentences can have a dramatic effect. It really wakes you up. Thanks for sharing it.

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    [...] Quotes on Simplicity and Writing - Einstein’s quotes are the best. [...]

  9. Miguel | Simply Blog says:


    I was thinking about quotes today. I’ve gotten away from using quotes on my site but plan on using them again. Thanks for the reminder! And as always, for inspiration. :)


    Miguel | Simply Blogs last blog post..WordPress 2.7 Changes Everything

  10. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Miguel, I think quotes do have to be used with care - they can become a lazy option, and people will glaze over if you use them too much… but quotes do have an uncanny ability to connect with at least one person, often in a most powerful way. (I also love getting new quotes back! It’s a good trade).

    Now heading over to see how wordpress 2.7 changes everything…

  11. wilson says:

    Well, that’s why I loved simplicity, Joanna! :)

    You’ve pointed out the best solid quotes and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t go for simplicity, isn’t it?

    wilsons last blog post..Do Mind About Your Sleeping Hours!

  12. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    wilson, I can see this theme is appealing to you!

  13. Carla says:

    I like

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.) -Leonardo da Vinci

    That is so true and I never understood why people move away from that.

    Carlas last blog post..Why New Year’s resolutions dont work | Blogroll

  14. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Carla, I’m with you - still trying to work out why people don’t embrace simplicity when the reasons to do so seem so compelling.

  15. Jamie Grove - How Not To Write says:

    “Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.” ~ John Steinbeck from Sweet Thursday

    Jamie Grove - How Not To Writes last blog post..Best Little Christmas Story

  16. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Jamie, thanks - great quote. Fabulous word: hooptedoodle. I love it!