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In Brief: Be Brief

May 16, 2022

An email subject line of one to five words. A description of less than 150 words. This, according to a recent study, is the optimal length for pitching your story to media professionals. Facing a constant barrage of emails, tweets, texts and notifications of all kinds, we are forced to triage what we read and how much information we can take in. This adds a layer of complexity to those of us trying to get our message out.

How can we make our communication succinct? Luckily, as our attention span has decreased, our toolkit has grown. Creating crisp content involves not just writing, but formatting, designing and delivering it in a way that gathers and keeps the attention of our audience.

Brevity is essential to modern business communication. If we want to be considered, our message needs to be clear, direct and simple. But not every story can be told in a tweet. Creating content that is brief yet valuable requires a thoughtful approach.

Here are some tips to keep your content compelling:

Write Clearly

  • Clarify what you are saying in one sentence. Get to the essence of your message quickly and say it directly. Make it clear why this is relevant.
  • Give your audience credit for what they already know. Your content should bring them something new.
  • Some gimmicks actually work. We continue to see listicles (as one example) because people read them.

Present it Quickly

  • Leverage your formatting tools. Bullets, headers and indented quotes all help draw in the reader to the items you want them to see. Many of our readers aren’t reading what we write at all – they are scanning it for the most useful tidbits. Make sure those stand out in your final product.
  • Our communication is increasingly visual. Leverage infographics, diagrams, videos and even emojis 🙂 whenever possible.

You Be You

  • Brevity does not have to mean boring. Your voice, humor and sense of personality are still important. Keep the tone; cut the noise.

In the Elements of Style, Professors Strunk and White told us over 100 years ago, “Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise.”

Some things never change.