“In communication, as in architecture, less is more. You have to sharpen your message to cut into the mind. You have to jettison the ambiguities, simplify the message, and then simplify it some more if you want to make a long-lasting impression.”1
The one skill I’m always working on is my communication. Whether in writing, marketing, speaking, video, or social media, I know that the real secret to business success is the ability to influence. If I can’t own the minds of my marketplace, I’ll never stand out. If I can’t penetrate new audiences, my business is doomed.
Even though my educational degree is in communications—and even though I’ve spent a quarter century in the communications business—I am constantly sharpening my sword in order to penetrate the minds of my targeted marketplace. Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, I come back to see that there are multiple areas in need of improvement. It’s never “good enough” when you’re striving for greatness, so I follow the guidance of the my masters:
“It is always a good idea to reread your writing later and ruthlessly delete the excess.”2
Would You Get to the Point?!
What’s the important aspect of effective communication? It’s simplicity. Yet, simplicity is one of the most difficult things to achieve in communications. As the old saying goes, “If I had more time, I’d write you a shorter letter.”
How often have you heard someone attempting to tell you something and they just go on and on? What’s the first thing you think? “I wish they would just get to the point!”
Then there’s those who we describe as “straight shooters.” They “tell you like it is.” They’re “up front” about what they think, and their outlook is “black and white.” For them, life is too short to “dance around” any subject. Again, I defer to the masters, Strunk and White, to make it plain:
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”3
More is Less and Less is More
If you’re in business—and for me, I see no other purpose to writing other than to increase business—then your biggest enemies are your own tendencies to muddy your own communications. We add too much to what we’re trying to say, and we end up with less being said. Therefore, more is less and less is more. We must clear out the clutter:
“Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”4
You will say more with less, if you focus on a single powerful idea and drive it into the minds of your audience with straight forward prose. Don’t try to be creative. Don’t be wordy. Don’t attempt to sound poetic. Simplicity is strength, and your communication—both written and spoken— will be appreciated and remembered because you made your audience work less yet understand more.
- Al Ries and Jack Trout, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2001), 8.
- William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2000), 72.
- Ibid., 23.
- William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction, Sixth Edition (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1998), 7.