We’re Awash In Too Many Words — It’s Really Better To Get To The Point

We are awash in too many words.  We need to learn to shorten our sentences, shorten our messages, get right to the heart of our messages.  We need to get to the point, quickly, clearly, and simply.  Because, we all have too many other words to read.

This is the growing consensus of a whole bunch of folks.

For example, Andrew Sullivan’s blogging style is described as a short, to the point, opening sentence and then a pull quote.  (I’m sorry – I do not remember where I read this description his style – but I read his blog, and it is accurate).

For example, many mission statements are too long. Way too long.  So long that no one remembers them, that few actually learn them.  A lot of people are saying this.  Guy Kawasaki, in The Art of the Start, puts it this way:

Make Mantra.  Forget mission statements; they’re long, boring, and irrelevant.  No one can ever remember them – much less implement them.  Instead, take your meaning and make a mantra out of it.  This will set you entire team on the right course.

In the article, The Eight-Word Mission Statement by Eric Hellweg, Hellweg puts it this way:

To combat this, Starr insists that companies he funds can express their mission statement in under eight words. They also must follow this format: “Verb, target, outcome.” Some examples: “Save endangered species from extinction” and “Improve African children’s health.”

Mulago’s approach is refreshingly sparse, and really helps to clarify the thinking. It’s a great “forcing function” as well. As Starr spoke, you could almost see PopTech attendees workshopping their mission statements, trying to get them down to under eight words in this format. It can be quite hard to do.

How long is your company’s current mission statement? Do you think you could get it down to under eight words using the “verb, target, outcome” format? It’s a good exercise to consider running, if only to start real conversations at your company about what you’re doing, to/for whom, and toward what outcome. Fascinating approach.

For example, consider the “Takahashi Method” for presentation slides.

Takahashi uses only text in his slides. But not just any text — really big text. Huge text. Characters of impressive proportion which rarely number more than ten, usually fewer. The goal, he says, is to use short words rather than long, complicated words and phrases.

There seems to be a growing understanding that we are awash in too many words.  Fewer words, stated clearly and simply, may be a true key to modern communication success.

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