Monday, May 14, 2012

How to be laconic

When Philip II of Macedon threatened to invade Sparta, he sent a message "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Sparta's reply was just one word "If". 

Philip chose not invade Sparta.

Laconia was the region surrounding Sparta, and both names came to symbolize a bareness: laconic and spartan.

There are times in scientific arguments, be it a reviewing a paper, responding to criticism, or summarizing intellectual arguments, where it is critical to be laconic. The Spartans could have responded point-by-point. Instead they chose to reduce the argument to its essence, "If".

In science, long, negative reviews often mask vested interests or laziness of thought. The best antidote is brevity. 

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