20 Feb 2012 When Writing Or Speaking Learn That Less Is More
Big words and long sentences will likely not serve you well as a writer. When it comes to making presentations the same holds true: don’t ramble on hoping to find the words that will have everyone in the room thinking you are the smartest person to ever grace their presence.
I’ve learned a few things along the way. First: use short sentences when writing. Second, eliminate the “jelly” when writing and when speaking. Third, it’s hard to do those first two things when you are told to “write naturally, as if you were speaking” and you tend to ramble anyway like your whole life is one long run-on sentence. But I digress…
I came across the following two links recently and so I wanted to share them with you.
First we have a link to a memo written by David Ogilvy to his employees titled “How to Write” and it was a list of tips that included the following gems:
- Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification,attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.
This isn’t the first time I have heard suggestions about how writing should be kept to short sentences. The most notable reference example I have been told about came from Hemingway. I believe that he knew a thing or two about writing, especially the whole “write drunk, edit sober” part.
Second we have a link to an article about presentations, “In Presentations, Learn To Say Less”. This post ties well to the earlier reference I had to the jelly effect: focus on the important details when speaking to someone. Eliminate the jelly. The classic example is when you describe your company to someone and the first thing you say is “we were founded in 1986”. Nobody cares when you were founded. Nintendo was founded in 1889 but didn’t start making video games until the mid 1970’s and OMG nobody cares about any of that. They only want to know when the next game will be released so stop wasting their time!
The article has some nice points that I have been using when putting together my outlines like I am doing for TechEd at the moment:
- Work backwards. Start with the key points and fill in the details on how to get to the key points.
- Practice your presentation without slides. This will help with your delivery, especially with transitions.
- Imagine the questions that your audience may ask.
If you learn to write less it will also translate to your presentation style. This will help you be an effective communicator, someone who others will want to read more frequently, or attend your presentations more often.