Sep 30, 2022 - Economy & Business

5 tips from "Smart Brevity": Short, not shallow

Illustration of a newspaper with the Axios logo and a thought bubble.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The greatest free gift you can give others — and yourself — is time.

  • Why it matters: An easy, universally applicable way to deliver this gift is to just stop. Just stop sending hazy notes. Just stop hiding soggy thinking in a vomit of words. Just stop writing and talking for yourself.

💡 Our new book, "Smart Brevity," will help you sharpen and shorten how you write and talk. These tips will help you be heard — whether you're a student, parent, teacher, manager or leader:

Tip 1: Stop being selfish! It is self-indulgent to force me to sort through hundreds of words to figure out what you're trying to tell me.

  • Long-windedness and meandering are fine in fiction and poetry — but terrible for daily life.
  • Think about your audience — not yourself.

Tip 2: Grab me! Before you write anything for Twitter — or text your boss or friend group — think about the most important thing you want them to know. Then distill it into one sentence.

  • The first sentence of anything you write should include the most essential info, using as few words as possible: Here is the one thing I need you to know.

Tip 3: Write like a human! Most of us are fairly normal in conversation. But when we sit down to write, we try to sound like Walt Whitman or a Harvard professor.

  • Authenticity and simplicity are huge winners in this era of noise.
  • Stop using SAT words, or any word you would never use at a bar.
  • Showing off words makes people want to throw something at you — not admire you.

Tip 4: Keep it simple! Short, tight words and sentences are always winners. Subject. Verb. Object.

  • You would never call a banana "an elongated yellow fruit," or say "prevaricate" when a friend is lying.

Tip 5: Just stop! Use as few words, sentences and paragraphs as possible. Then stop.

  • Remember: The data shows you'll be lucky to keep your reader for 200 words. So why waste time?

The big picture: You can train your mind to think and communicate more crisply. Watch how your ideas start to stick — and get acted on — when you do.

📚 Get "Smart Brevity." Proceeds go to Axios newsroom fellowships for early-career journalists from underrepresented backgrounds.

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