Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Saying More By Saying Less (continued)

(Yes, I recognize the irony in "continuing" to say less! Deal with it.)

A colleague responded to my last post promoting spareness of language. He reminded me that even Ernest Hemingway struggled with editing his prose, noting, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket."

Papa was being modest. He used the language well. Hemingway is also responsible for what some consider to be the greatest ad copy ever written, one that conveys a novel's worth of information and emotion in just six words: "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn."

Can you condense your marketing message into six words? Not always possible, but always a good goal.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Say More by Saying Less

Thomas Jefferson was a prolific author and correspondent. His words continue to inspire us today. But he was also well aware of the power of brevity. Jefferson closed one three-page letter to a friend with an apology: "Forgive me for writing such a long letter, but I did not have time to write a shorter one."

Unfortunately, many writers today cannot keep themselves from rambling, unable or unwilling to pare their thoughts down to the essentials. Jefferson launched the world's greatest nation with a single page, the Declaration of Independence. But your local personal injury attorney needs to blast out a 3,000 word blog every week. Sad.

We should all follow the example of William Mulholland, the man responsible for developing the remarkable waterworks for the City of Los Angeles early in the last century. Mulholland was asked to speak at the dedication ceremony for a 233-mile aqueduct that brought water from the Colorado River across the desert to the city. When the first stream started to flow out from the aqueduct, Mulholland stepped up to the microphone and commemorated the momentous occasion by saying, "There it is. Take it."

Fewer and truer words were never spoken.