When it comes to professional commication, brevity counts. In writing, in speech. Always.
It’s a valuable lesson I’ve learned over the years – That people appreciate concision. Because when you’re brief, when you use precise words and adopt a to-the-point tone, people recognize that you aren’t going to waste their time.
But concision shouldn’t be confused with imprecision. A quick message doesn’t imply a message that was developed haphazardly. Instead, the emphasis is on clear-headed thinking; It takes an incisive mind to say in a few words what others tell in a paragraph or a short speech.
Following are three simple rules that have helped me to internalize this lesson as it relates to my professional life as an entrepreneur. I emphasize writing here, but they apply equally to the spoken word:
- Put every line you write on trial for its life. Ask the question, “Can I deliver my message effectively without using these words?” When they answer is Yes, you’ll know what to do.
- Abandon your middle school grammar lessons. Okay, not all of them. But there’s a curious truth to the writing skills we learn through formal schooling – they sap us of our creativity. And they allow (encourage?) us to be long-winded.
- Take a few risks. It’s tough to change a writing style. I know it. But it becomes easier as you take more risks. You’ll soon find that you’re stringing words together in fun, new ways. And that you’re finding clever shortcuts to convey your meaning – simply and clearly – with far fewer words.
I admit that these aren’t universal laws – that some professional messages need to be redundant in the interest of clarity, or long-winded in the interest of protecting parties to a legal agreement, or…
But they’re useful guidelines when sending e-mails. When writing blog posts. And more genearlly, when delivering a message to a sharp but busy audience.
Your suppliers, your distributors, your customers, your collaborators: all will appreciate your thoughtfulness when you show some respect for their time.
So say what you need to say. Then get on with it.