By: Barb Sawyers
on Wednesday, November 14, 2012
You know when somebody goes on and on while your drum your fingers and say to yourself: “Just get to the point”?
You don’t want people to think that about you. When you’re writing, whether it’s a routine email or a complex business plan, the consequences can be dire. Bored readers won’t stick around to find out what your point is.
Too often small business people think they have to provide lots of background or backstory first. No. State your point and link it to your readers. After that, you can fill in the context.
Start with a concise, focused message, expressed in about 25 words or less. Likely, but not necessarily, it will encompass the who, what, when, where, and why as well as the key benefits. That’s a lot to ask of 25 words.
Don’t worry if your message starts off longer. Keep shortening until you have reached a point of clarity.
The fewer the words, the sharper your focus. And the more likely you are to pierce through the clutter of thoughts and competition of ideas.
Some well-educated people would argue they are dumbing down their writing when they simplify. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Being able to clearly summarize your point in 25 words or less demonstrates just how well you understand it and how clearly you think. Neuroscientists, such as Dr. Norman Doidge who wrote The Brain That Changes Itself, have found that the ability to summarize is actually a left-hemisphere symbolic thinking activity that can improve with practice. So practice.
Longer explanations are of course necessary for complex ideas, but they will come later. You need to start with one highly focused message.
This may take several drafts. During this stage, the elegance of your language is not as important as the sharpness of your focus.
Once you’ve crafted your main point, relate it to your ideal reader. Does it fit?
Then tie your main point to the objective you want to achieve.
With shorter attention spans and the limits of Twitter and texting, the skill to distill is becoming ever more valuable.
Writing is not exploring the cosmos. It’s more like splitting the atom. The smaller, the more powerful it is.