Expression - Persuasive communication

Less but Better

Today is the shortest day of the year, so let’s take a quick look at brevity.

German designer Dieter Rams, who inspired Apple designer Jonathan Ive, believed in the idea of less but better. What works in the design of products can also apply to communication.

In today’s era of gnat-length attention spans, unhealthy brevity is even more important than ever, but simply shortening your message without improving it will fail. (Sometimes less is less.) In telling stories, one vivid detail trumps a lot of boring detail. In selling, one unique differentiator that the customer values will trump a long list of features. One well-designed chart can replace several minutes of explanation.

Just a few words can pack a tremendous punch. Supposedly, Hemingway was at lunch with several writers and claimed he could write a short story in just six words. Bets were made, and Hemingway scrawled on a napkin:

“For sale, baby shoes, never worn.”

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2 Comments
  • thanks, Kare. I really like the sauce analogy! By the way, I saved your article in the HBR yesterday. Good stuff.

  • Thanks, Jack, for this vital advice in this era of a firehose of information. Blaise Pascal ended his long letter to the Jesuits on December 4, 1656, with this apology, “This is long because I lack the time to make it short.”

    Brevity is to distill, like reducing liquid to an intensely delicious sauce.
    An example I like is the Zip car motto: Wheels when you want them

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