US President Donald Trump has been criticised for not wanting to read long, detailed policy papers.
He likes his briefings to be whittled down to the headlines. “I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page,” Trump told Axios back in January.
Trump’s desire to read less has historic pedigree. Winston Churchill, the prime minister who led Britain through World War II, liked to receive his information the same way.
On August 9, 1940, with the Battle of Britain raging in the skies above England, Churchill begged his staff to write shorter.
“To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points,” the memo says.
Seventy-seven years later, the memo still has excellent advice for anyone who has to write something. Keep it short, make it conversational, and “the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking,” Churchill advises.
Here is the memo in full. You can click on it to make it larger:
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