Sunday, September 11, 2016

In writing or speaking : Why shorter is better


Photo by Johnny Delos Santos

Our priest once lamented “ When I give a long sermon, people say  I talk too much. When I give a short sermon, they say I’m not prepared.”

So, how long is long and how short is short ?

The advertising legend David Ogilvy, in an internal memo, advised his staff to “Never write more than two pages on any subject matter. “

Michael Miller, in his ebook Web Words That Work : Writing Online Copy That Sells, prescribed that  “anything longer than 140 characters is too long to scroll through.”

I judge the length of the speeches I will write based on the context of the occasion. If my boss will deliver the speech in a company program in which people will be standing, or will be moving on to other appointments, I write one and a half pages. Or less.

If the boss is invited to a faraway event in which people will pay for dinner, I will make it a bit longer. That will prevent people from saying “ that’s all ? “

Oren Klaff, author of the bestselling Pitch Anything, believes that our reaction to events  or messages is still controlled by the primitive part of the brain. This “croc brain” ensures our survival. If the brain senses that what we’re saying is not a matter of emergency, or it’s not new and exciting, the croc brain thinks “ how can I ignore this or spend the least amount of time on it ? “

Given our human nature, the bias is toward shorter articles and speeches.  We only add more info if  they contribute to the substance, or add character. Think of the two E's : Engagingness and Effectivity. A boring one-minute patter can sound longer than an engaging three-minute story. But even an entertaining speech can lose its appeal after ten minutes.

The secret to good writing is first, the planning; and next, the re-writing.

Planning means having an outline so you can decide what’s important and what’s “too much information.”  And you also decide how you can say them in the shortest but most effective, most engaging way.

I attend a lot of prayer meetings and I observe that the boring sharers do not have a mental outline.

After having written the piece, edit it  making sure it is most complete in the shortest possible way.

In the same memo mentioned earlier, Ogilvy advised “ Never send a letter or memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning –then edit it.”

Famous novelist Truman Capote said “ I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. “



Tip of the week

To help make the time in traffic more productive, watch a movie or tv show or browse the net via SkyMobi. It is a pocket wi-fi gadget that you use with the Sky On-Demand app. It works on a phone, tablet or laptop.


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