Yesterday I interviewed a very long-winded source for a white paper I’m writing on Disruptive Digital Technologies. And I realised something interesting about the words we use.
When we’re uncertain about our message, we have a lack of confidence in the clarity of our expression, or we’re presenting something complex, we use more words than we need.
We do this to ensure that, in the mess of verbiage, something tweaks the reader or listener’s antennae, and makes them understand what we’re trying to convey.
In short, we say something twice or three times, in different ways, because we need all three sets of explanation to unpack what we mean. (We may think we’re doing it for emphasis, but that’s a cop-out.)
Now, what if we started with a stronger, more carefully considered message (that we’d crafted in advance), and relied on the simplest possible words to explain it? We’d need fewer words.
Plus, simpler words tend to offer the reader or listener less room for misunderstanding.
- Think of and write down your core message beforehand.
- Streamline it as much as possible, in the context of what you want it to achieve (i.e. what you want your reader or listener to think, feel or do).
- Then, express it once, using the simplest words you can.
- Once you’ve done that, resist the temptation to re-state it.