This letter investigates the performance of short forward error-correcting (FEC) codes. Reed-Solomon (RS) codes and concatenated zigzag codes are chosen as representatives of classical algebraic codes and modern simple iteratively decodable codes, respectively. Additionally, random binary linear codes are used as a baseline reference. Our main results (demonstrated by simulations and ensemble distance spectrum analysis) are as follows: 1) Short RS codes are as good as random binary linear codes; 2) Carefully designed short low-density parity-check (LDPC) codes are almost as good as random binary linear codes; 3) Low complexity belief propagation decoders incur considerable performance loss at short coding lengths. Thus, future work could focus on developing low-complexity (near) optimal decoders for RS codes and/or LDPC codes.