Long story short

I am not fond of the hackneyed phrase to make a long story short (or its many trite cousins, including to cut to the chase and to get down to business). But it does not bother me all that much if used sparingly. What does grate on me is the truncated, slangy version long story short, as in these annoying examples:

From Time — Long story short, he quit his job to become a musician.

From The AtlanticLong story short: our system of finance is irrational and disorganized and presents perverse incentives to doctors, hospitals, and communities.

Perhaps I’m being overly rigid: the shorthand version of the phrase, after years of irritating repetition, may have become idiomatically acceptable (like the even more irritating push the envelope). It certainly has the advantage of brevity. But I cannot help thinking less of writers who compound their banality with slovenliness.

My advice: avoid the phrase entirely, but, if you cannot help yourself, at least use the standard idiomatic expression and stay away from its bastard offspring.

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4 Comments

Filed under Grammar and Usage Errors, Hackneyed Phrases

4 responses to “Long story short

  1. Keith Jones

    I think you object to the elevation of what is, after all, merely a whimsical but harmless conversational shorthand into the more formal realm of print media. I am not subjected to what you call, uncharitably even if accurately, such banal slovenliness, for I never read Time or The Atlantic. Perhaps you should follow my example.

  2. Laura

    By the very act of using the shorthand version, perhaps people are in fact truly attempting to make their long story shorter? :)) Although somewhat amusingly, wouldn’t it actually make their long story shorter to omit either superfluous phrase?

    I hate to admit it, Mr. Grumpmeister, but I think I myself am guilty of using both versions from time to time. I’ll try and remember your aversion to it so that I don’t accidentally inflict it upon you in a reply to a future post. I understand your irritation, though; I too have some linguistic pet peeves existing in common grammatical usage.

  3. John

    So if you dislike “long story short,” how are you on “badda bing, badda boom”?

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