Say More With Less

I have been called a wordsmith by some and a red pen-wielding copy slasher by others. I’ll gladly claim both.The words we use are critical in communicating a message . . . and most of the time we simply use too many.

An over-abundance of aspiring high-achievers, somewhere along the way, became convinced that big words, lots of qualifiers, and a mind-numbing level of unnecessary explanation and detail somehow made them seem smarter, or at the very least harder to argue with. They were wrong. Simple, focused messages are much more powerful.

The Gettysburg Address was 272 words. It took Lincoln roughly two mintues to deliver, and is widely considered one of the greatest speeches ever made by an American President. 272 words.

There is power in brevity.

People who are not clear on what they want to say tend to ramble, presumably hoping something will stick. Likewise, when a person has a weak argument, there can be a false assumption that the speaker will sound more compelling by using lots of words. Unfortunately, lots of words also increases the likelihood that the listener will miss the main point, instead getting mired down in some irrelevant detail . . . which requires even more words to try to get them back on track. Limiting the length of your communication forces you to identify what is most important.

There is clarity in brevity.

Pascal famously said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. It is faster and easier to simply dump lots of information on people. It takes real effort to distill down your message to the fewest possible words to make your point. Isn’t your message worth the effort?

Brevity takes time.

Granted, writing and speaking skills come easier for some people than for others. However whether it comes easily or is a hard-won, the ability to communicate effectively is a critical skill for leaders. The most powerful messages, the clearest ones, are succinct and to the point. Yes it takes more time. It’s worth the effort.

Want to say more? Try saying less.

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