In Communication, Less Is More

Communicating simply and effectively is a valuable skill. Today the Public Speaker examines how to say more by actually saying less.

Lisa B. Marshall ,
November 7, 2014
Episode #271
  • “Less is more.”

  • “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

  • “Simplify and add lightness.”

We hear these phrases from time to time, but what exactly do they mean?.

I used to think writing was a lost art, but it’s not so! In our current culture of technology, it seems the written word is more important than ever. Think of all the communicating you do via email, text, and social media. More than ever, we have an audience of readers.

These readers have short attention spans. When it comes to words, often less really is more. Fewer words have more impact. Here are some common ways we communicate with writing and how to keep it short and sweet (or KISS).

Email Communication

I sometimes get impatient when I get a long email.

Why is that? It’s not because I’m in a hurry, it’s just that I’d prefer the writer to be clear and concise. One way to make your message stand out and not be overwhelming to your recipient is to keep the greeting or introduction short or possibly not even use one at all (depending on your relationship with the person). Usually, one quick sentence is adequate.

Next, in the body of the email, jump right into your question or main point. Visually separate your ideas with a space or bullet points. One giant paragraph can be exhausting! If you have more than one main idea, consider sending separate emails.  End your email with a quick “thanks” or a summary reiterating your main request. Use bolding and liberal spacing to make it easy on the eyes.

For more tips on the do's and don'ts of email, check out my episode 10 Ways to Annoy Your Colleagues with Email.

Websites and Newsletters

Similarly, with newsletters and websites, liberal spacing, bolded headlines, and using only one or two font types is likely to get you noticed. A website will be more appealing and cohesive with less visual clutter. Make your information more impactful with simple words, repeating phrases, and attractive images.

Think of road signs...You’re more likely to notice the single word CAUTION than if it were mixed in with several other descriptive words.

Your call to action should be a short headline or a one-word attention grabber. You want readers to stop and take notice of your information, so make an impression by making it cleaner and more manageable for the reader. Think of road signs and safety signs you see everywhere. You’re more likely to notice the single word CAUTION than if it were mixed in with several other fonts and descriptive words. Most people won’t take the time to read a wordy sign, but highlighting one word in bold grabs attention and accomplishes what it’s supposed to.


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