A new approach to the construction of short questionnaires is introduced: ‘comprehensive single items’ (CSI) are developed with the intention to match expert descriptions of a construct as closely as possible. Based on this idea, a 60-item questionnaire, the ‘Short Five’ (S5) is constructed for measuring 30 facets of the Five-Factor Model. Studies in Estonian, Finnish, English, and German showed that the S5 domain scales had correlations over 0.8 with their counterparts in longer questionnaires, and that the factor structure was similar to that of the normative US NEO-PI-R sample. The S5 can be recommended for large-scale studies where participants' time is limited. The CSI approach can be successfully used in short scale development, in addition to more traditional methods. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.