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Sometimes Less is More in Communication

In 1988, Howard Baker was President Reagan’s Chief of Staff and an avid photographer shooting Hasselblad, Nikon and Leica. As a Hasselblad shooter, we had invited him to lunch and he ended up turning the tables on us suggesting, “Why don’t you come to my house?”  Well, “my house” was the Whitehouse.

During our visit, I remember him telling me a story about the challenge in written communication.

I had to send a letter to another Senator once, and I remember writing, “I wish I could make this shorter, but I just don’t have the time!”

That story stuck with me all these years and it makes a terrific point about how hard it is to be concise. For many of you it’s time to examine your writing style. I know you’re artists and didn’t sign up to be writers, but it’s so easy for you to do a better job if you just take a little more time. I see the best example of the challenge you face in your Facebook posts, especially when you’re telling a story about something you wrote to a client.

You’ve got to learn to be more to the point. Be direct without being sarcastic, hurtful or disrespectful. Stop thinking you have to explain everything in your life in every communication.  It’s hard to be direct and when the communication is in written form, we ramble.

Here are some tips to help.

  • Read everything you write out loud.
  • If you’re writing something sensitive have a friend, family member or associate read what you’ve written.
  • Stay on point. Get rid of unnecessary explanations.
  • Remember, if it takes more than two paragraphs to communicate then rewrite it.
  • If you’re sending a letter and you’ve gone to page two, odds are it’s too long!
  • Use spellcheck, but also a grammar site. Personally I love Grammarly.com, which doesn’t shorten things for me, but it does help me stay focused.

In high school, when we had to do a report and teachers told us they wanted 500 words, we all went overboard. Too bad they didn’t tell us they wanted terrific content worth 500 words but told in only 200!