Archive for June 2008

Short is Sweet

June 16, 2008

(reproduced from The MondayMorning Memo)

Newton published his famous Second Law of Motion in 1687 and got all the credit for it even though Shakespeare had made the same observation back in 1603. It was in Hamlet that he said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

In other words, impact is equal to mass times acceleration.

Let me connect the dots for you:

1. The size of an idea is its mass.
2. The shorter the sentence that delivers the idea, the greater its acceleration.

How big is your idea? How quickly can you express it? These are the factors that determine the impact of what you say.

Capture a big idea and express it in few words.

This is the opening paragraph of a famous website about persuasion:

You want more revenue. More revenue requires more people taking action. But people only do what they want to do. You have to give them what they want in order to get what you want.

That wasn’t badly written. It contained a big idea but let’s see if we can tighten the word count and accelerate the impact:

Want more revenue?
Revenue requires people taking action.
But people only do what they want to do.
Give them what they want.
They’ll give you what you want.

All we did was:
1. Eliminate 1 appearance of the word “you” to turn an assumptive statement into a question.
2. Eliminate 2 appearances of the word “more.”
3. Eliminate “You have to” to open with a verb, “Give.”
4. Break the long, final sentence into 2 short sentences.

Impact was accelerated by cutting seven words and trading five long sentences for six short ones.

“Waste not, want not.”
“Give me liberty or give me death.”
“Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.”

Ever notice how short phrases hit harder than long ones?