Concision versus Conciseness

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Wordsmyth, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I have often hesitated between "concision" and "conciseness", never acquiring a preference. Dictionary sources I've checked make no distinction.

    Does anyone have any views or evidence that would suggest usage of one or the other in a particular context (technical/general, regional, ...)?

    Thanks for any ideas.

    W :):)
  2. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    In AE, at least, "conciseness" is far more common. The use of "concision," particularly in speech, would strike me as an affectation, as pretentious.

    I do know that concision is a word used in music criticism.
  3. out2lnch Senior Member

    Ottawa, Canada
    I like the idea of 'concision', but have never seen/heard anyone use it. Not that 'conciseness' is used very frequently, but I have used it myself.
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I'd go for conciseness every time, Wordsmyth, as concision always reminds me of an unpleasant medical procedure (as I imagine it does you even more, as a French-speaker).
  5. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hello Wordsmyth,

    I've been aware that concision existed, but have never used the word.

    An AE source:
  6. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    It's interesting that the original meaning was as a noun based on the result of an action, because that is exactly what it sounds like to me, which is why it sounds somewhat wrong to my ears.

    Other common words with this form, such as decision, incision, division, tend to be nouns based on actions, whereas concision (if it means conciseness) is more of a quality. It's congruent with precision (another quality) but that doesn't seem to mitigate its oddness (to me).
  7. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Thanks very much everybody (belatedly -- I've been away). It looks as though "conciseness" wins ... and based on a well-balanced sample of Hispano-AE-BE viewpoints too!

    Ewie, you have a point but, as the French word is "concision", French-speakers are stuck with it, unpleasant medical connotations or not! ;)

    W :):)
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    There's rather a similar problem with abstention and abstinence.
  9. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I try to keep my writing "terse, pithy and to the point", which would be a long-winded way to say "concise", but I would never use "concision" although I understood immediately what it meant. It would draw so much attention to itself as to defeat your attempts at communicating.
  10. dragonthief New Member

    English English
    It's a funny one, isn't it? Why do we say precision rather than preciseness? I suspect long and complicated etymological confusions, probably arising when French and German collided within the arena of English...

    I'm with Matching Mole; on the whole, the '-ness' unambiguously denotes a quality-in-a-thing, whilst the '-ion' ending can be ambiguous between action and result-of-action, (and sometimes also having-the-quality-of-x).;

    If we save conciseness to mean 'having the quality of being concise', then we can save concision for either 'the act of rendering something concise', perhaps a synonym for précis, or 'the result of being rendered concise', um - also a synonym of précis. Tell you what, we need a third word: an object that is 'the result of being rendered concise', by a deft concision, has the quality of conciseness because it is a... a... Concixion? Conciseoid? Conciseage? Oh dear...
  11. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    A concinch?
  12. Rasmack New Member

    I am English, in my 50s and have a PhD in English Literature. i have never knowingly registered anyone say 'conciseness'. It's got to be concision every time for me, thanks.
  13. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Lest anyone be caused to think that the word conciseness is rare from the pens of great writers of English, here are the first four of many, many, examples one can easily find:

    For the sake of conciseness in a hurried situation I have made Cleopatra recommend rum. Shaw: Notes on Caesar and Cleopatra.

    But Albert stopped not to make observations, anxious, it seemed, to get Joceline out of the room; which he achieved by hastily answering his offers of fresh fuel, and more liquor, in the negative, and returning, with equal conciseness, the under-keeper's good wishes for the evening. Scott: Woodstock, Chapter 21.

    "Drink--drugs," said Mr. Pepper with sinister conciseness. "He left a commentary. Hopeless muddle, I'm told. "Virginia Woolf: The Voyage Out, Chapter 1.

    His Bodleian Speech, though taken from a remote and imperfect copy, hath shown the world how great a master he was of the Ciceronian eloquence, mixed with the conciseness and force of Demosthenes, the elegant and moving turns of Pliny, and the acute and wise reflections of Tacitus. Samuel Johnson: Lives of the Poets - Life of Edmund Smith.

    Funnily enough, examples of use of concision, while not very unusual, are rather harder to find. Johnson never uses the word, for instance. The ngrams show the greater historical popularity of conciseness, which has been eroded over time. Conciseness remains, however, about twice as usual as concision in Google Books.

    ps. While it doesn't seem that Johnson uses the word concision in his prose writings, it is defined in later versions of the dictionary where it is far from a synonym for conciseness (brevity, shortness). Here's the entry: Concision: Cutting off; excision; destruction.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    From the OED entry for concision:

    1. The action of cutting to pieces or cutting away; mutilation.

    a. In Phil. iii. 2 (from the Geneva version of 1557 onward) it translates Greek κατατομή ‘cutting off, cutting up’, used there instead of περιτομή ‘circumcision’, and applied contemptuously to the Judaizing Christians.
    b. Hence, a rending or division (of the church); a schism. Obs.

    3. = conciseness n. [so French concision.] Not in Johnson or Todd 1755–1818.

    Conciseness, the noun meaning Concise quality; brevity, terseness, has been used with this meaning for much longer than concision.
  15. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Thanks, Rasmack, for dusting the cobwebs off this thread — and TT and panj for your added thoughts.

    After the earlier discussion (really four years ago?!), I became a firm convert to "conciseness". If ever I'm tempted to use "concision" now, I can't shake off the image of ewie's "unpleasant medical procedure" — only goes to show the impact a WR discussion can have!

    With your latest reasoning, I feel that "conciseness" is further justified: (a) by its literary track record , and (b) because it's totally unambiguous, with no risk of being confused with cutting bits off ("the concision of his text": brevity? ... or the heavy hand of an editor?).

  16. donblue_usher New Member

    San Francisco
    I know this is a super old thread, but...

    Given the two words' synonymy, regardless of etymology, and in the interest of conciseness, shouldn't we go with "concision" every time?

    Otherwise, does not the word betrays its own intent? :)
  17. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Personally, if I ever had to use a word with this meaning, I would use conciseness.
    Because it conveys meaning clearly, unambiguously, without risk of confusion, and without risk of requiring my readers to check in a dictionary.
    I can't say the same about concision.
  18. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Welcome to the forums, donblue_usher.

    I'm sorry, I have no idea what you mean by "Does not the word betray it's own intent?":(

    Like almost everyone else, I would vote for "conciseness", if the meaning was "brevity/terseness".
  19. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I took her to mean that conciseness is a longer word than concision, two letters longer, and, in the interests of conciseness one should say concision.

    I've probably missed the point again.

    I too say conciseness, not wishing to sound medical.
  20. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Ah yes, I expect you're right:thumbsup:.

    (I still vote for 'conciseness':cool:)
  21. Tazzler Senior Member

    American English
    Conciseness should not be worried about at the individual word level. Longer words have their uses and should not be forsaken for being long.
  22. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I wholeheartedly agree. I also don't know if "conciseness" is that much less concise than "concision" - they're both three syllables and pretty much equally long.

    And I would probably use "concision" myself anyway, for no good reason!

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