Short Words, Short Sentences, Short Paragraphs
- On October 10, 2016
There’s nothing that can’t be improved by making it shorter. That’s what Charles Osgood said recently when he retired as host of “Sunday Morning” and reflected on his long career on the air. “Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs,” he stressed.
Copy that is shorter is typically clearer and simpler to grasp, which improves the likelihood your audience will read it, understand it, and—to use today’s standard for successful content—engage with it.
Clients often tell me they run up against resistance if they write tightly and simply. “My CEO thinks we have to sound complicated so people will see how complex the work we do is” or “We’re not a mass-market brand, so we need to elevate our language,” both of which strike me as code to replace natural-sounding words like improve and agree with corporate jargon like optimize and align.
Every expert I’ve ever consulted would say this is bunk. In fact, The Financial Times is written at the 16-year-old level—high school age—even though its readers are far older and more educated than that. And Warren Buffet, by anybody’s standards a smart, successful man who dispenses advice about a complicated subject matter, speaks and writes at a 15-and-a-half-year-old level.*
Corporate America take note.
* Stats courtesy of the metric-driven healthcare brand consultancy Signava.