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Short vs. Brief: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 29, 2023
Short refers to limited length or duration, often in a physical or temporal sense, whereas brief implies a concise and succinct duration or explanation, often in a context of communication or description.

Key Differences

Short typically describes something with limited physical length or duration, like a short book or a short person. Brief, however, usually refers to the succinctness or conciseness of time or communication, like a brief meeting or a brief summary.
In literature, a short story focuses on its brief length in terms of word count or pages. A brief description in a book, on the other hand, refers to a concise, to-the-point explanation or depiction, regardless of the book's overall length.
When describing time, short can refer to a small quantity of time, like a short break. Brief, in this context, implies a concise duration with an emphasis on the limited time allocated, such as a brief pause in a conversation.
In clothing, short is used to describe the physical length, like short sleeves or short skirts. Brief, while not commonly used in this context, could imply a quick or fleeting fashion trend.
In communication, a short message might refer to a message that is limited in length, like a short text. A brief message, however, focuses on being succinct, conveying the necessary information in a compact form.

Comparison Chart


Limited in length or duration
Concise and succinct in communication

In Literature

Pertaining to length (e.g., short story)
Pertaining to concise description

Time Context

Small quantity of time
Emphasis on limited duration

In Clothing

Physical length (e.g., short sleeves)
Not commonly used in this context


Limited length of message
Succinctness of message content

Short and Brief Definitions


Less than the required or expected amount.
The project was short of funding.


Lasting only a short time; of short duration.
The meeting was brief but productive.


Having little length or lacking in length.
He wore a short jacket despite the cold weather.


Concise and to the point.
Her explanation was brief and clear.


Limited in duration.
We took a short break during the hike.


Giving only the essential information.
He gave a brief overview of the project.


Not extending far enough.
The blanket was too short to cover his feet.


Short in terms of time but comprehensive in coverage.
The documentary provided a brief history of the country.


Brief in extent or duration.
She gave a short performance.


A short and informative document.
The lawyer prepared a legal brief for the case.


Having little length; not long.


Short in time, duration, length, or extent.


Having little height; not tall.


Succinct; concise
A brief account of the incident.


How is brief used differently from short?

Brief is often used to describe concise and succinct communication or duration, focusing on the compactness of the content or time.

Can short and brief be used interchangeably?

They can overlap, especially in contexts of time, but are not always interchangeable due to their different emphases.

Is brief used in legal contexts?

Yes, in legal contexts, a brief is a concise statement or summary of a case.

What does a short story imply?

A short story implies a narrative with a brief length in terms of word count or pages.

What is a brief explanation?

A brief explanation is one that is concise and to the point, covering only the essential information.

Does brief imply effectiveness?

Often, yes. Brief communication is usually valued for being efficient and effective.

Can brief be used to describe clothing?

Not in the traditional sense. Brief typically doesn't describe physical attributes of objects.

What does short typically describe?

Short typically describes limited physical length or duration, such as a short person or a short amount of time.

What does it mean when a meeting is brief?

When a meeting is brief, it means it is short in duration, focusing only on essential topics.

Is short a relative term?

Yes, short is relative and can vary depending on the context and comparison.

How does short relate to physical measurements?

Short often relates to physical dimensions, like height or length of an object or person.

Can a person be described as brief?

Not typically. Brief usually describes communication or duration, not people.

How is short used in financial contexts?

In finance, being short can mean having a deficit, like being short on cash.

Can a movie be described as short?

Yes, a movie can be described as short if it has a brief running time.

How does brief differ in academic writing?

In academic writing, brief means providing essential information in a concise manner.

Can a novel be short?

Yes, though it's less common, a novel can be short in length.

Can a speech be both short and brief?

Yes, a speech can be both short in duration and brief in its concise delivery of content.

What is a short temper?

A short temper refers to a tendency to become angry quickly.

Does brief mean incomplete?

No, brief means concise but still complete in coverage.

Is short used to describe time?

Yes, short can describe a limited amount of time.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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