I've been thinking about idioms, metaphors, and phrases one could use in a conversation to convey the idea that simpler is better. I came up with a few:

"Don't scratch your left ear with your right hand."

"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line."

Are you aware of any others? I'm looking for something shorter, but I'll take anything.

Addendum: I'm also interested in acronyms and complete sentences. I don't want to restrict the kinds of answers you might provide, as long as they convey the idea that simpler is better.

Addendum re potential duplicate: Is there another way of saying "less is more"? This question concerns alternative ways to characterize a minimalist approach, one striving for extreme spareness and simplicity. My question is not a duplicate. I am seeking alternatives for simpler is better, not ways to describe extreme sparseness and simplicity. Also, the contrast inherent in simpler is better, which is essential to my question, is absent in the less-is-more question.

Addendum re potential duplicate: Is there a funny expression for "Keep it simple"? This question concerns funny alternatives for a native expression that usually encourages someone to use a solution that has already been found, or to refrain from making some trivial process overly complicated. I'm not seeking ways to encourage the use of solutions that have already been found or to discourage the making of trivial processes overly complicated. I'm also not seeking funny expressions per se, as evidenced by my two examples, which few would find funny. The scope of my question is much broader.

  • What are your criteria for something that's the most suitable? Why would we pick one over another? (Just compiling lists isn't on topic. There needs to be some kind of direction that would make us choose something over anything else.) Otherwise, I wouldn't know where to direct a particular search. Commented May 22, 2020 at 2:28
  • @JasonBassford I'm interested in alternatives to the two examples I provided -- idioms, metaphors, sayings -- ideally shorter, that one could use in a conversation to convey the meaning simpler is better. I'm looking for something wittier and less direct. Commented May 22, 2020 at 3:40
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    Does this answer your question? Is there another way of saying less is more? Is there a funny expression for "Keep it simple"? Commented May 22, 2020 at 15:01
  • Some find "less is more" a bit too intellectual for their sensibility, and thumb their noses at the effete by proclaiming "Less is less." Optionally, to drive in the snark, lead in with 'Not unexpectedly...''" Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 2:18

3 Answers 3


Less Is More, originally from the Bauhaus Movement in architecture and design.


Less is more was the motto of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who advocated for minimalism. If you have something that is less complicated, that offers more in the way of results, easier for the eye and mind to process without added complexity and detail.

The corollary, that form follows function, meant never adding a detail (to the form) for the sake of decoration (which the function didn't call for).

Example in design: As the West looked to the East for inspiration, the Japanese concepts of simplicity in Shibui and Shibumi brought great appeal.

Example in writing: Editors often pare down drafts to eliminate words that don’t add value.

  • Thanks for turning your solid comment into a solid answer. Perhaps you noticed that my profile pic is of a Paul Klee painting. What's interesting about less is more in the context of editing is that it also implies that more is less is true while more is more and less is less are both false. :-) Commented May 22, 2020 at 14:14
  • I'm selecting this as the best answer. I used to use it all the time in conversations about the editing of documents that were much more complex than they needed to be. It's also the shortest answer: 13 characters including spaces and punctuation. Commented May 26, 2020 at 22:01

I personally feel that keep it simple is the simplest and most direct way of expressing the concept. This is the main part of what was expressed as a suggested alternative in a comment under the question: KISS. (But I feel that KISS might not be understood by everybody.)

I don't think it's possible to find something of this kind that could be a clearly better expression than keep it simple.

I also took the opposite approach.

I thought that in order to demonstrate something short as well as wittier and less direct (as clarified in comments under the question), I'd instead come up with a phrase that's actually complex, but which has a nice metre to it, and that, also in only three words, says to avoid complexity.

By it's very complexity, it demonstrates what should be avoided, so it's a kind of meta jest. I figure it's something that could get a laugh at (the right kind of) party after somebody has asked to have it explained.

Eschew anfractous dispensation.

I am using the following senses of the words, all from Merriam-Webster.


: to avoid habitually especially on moral or practical grounds : SHUN


: full of windings and intricate turnings : TORTUOUS


3 a : the act of dispensing
        // the dispensation of medication
3 b : something dispensed or distributed
       // … one of the most remarkable cultural dispensations in the country's history, the        paperback book.
— T. E. Cooney

So, we have this:

  • Keep it simple.

    → Avoid the distribution of things that are intricate and convoluted.
         (Distribution can be thought of as the opposite of keep.)

  • Eschew anfractous dispensation.
  • These are both great answers. The second one reminds me of eschew obfuscation. :-) Commented May 22, 2020 at 5:18

How about in words of one syllable? From Cambridge:

in words of one syllable: in simple language avoiding long, difficult, or specialized words, e.g., "Could you explain to me in words of one syllable how an electron microscope works?"

In suggesting in a conversation that one speak or write in words of one syllable, one is communicating that simpler is better.

  • Can you restate that in words of one syllable?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 22:39
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    @HotLicks I was expecting that. :-) Commented May 24, 2020 at 22:44
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    And why is "monosyllabic" five syllables??
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 2:17
  • Maybe what you were looking for was highly contextual, but 'words of a syllable' and 'simpler is better' are not interchangeable. You could use the latter in, say, an architectural design, or a problem-solving approach, but not the former. Commented Jun 15 at 18:43

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