There is a profound thought about being pithy, that has been attributed to many different individuals over the centuries, which is an important reminder for all marketers.
The earliest comes from the French mathematician, Blaise Pascal, who wrote, “I have made this [letter] longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”
Several hundred years later, President Woodrow Wilson gave an interesting answer when asked how long it took him to prepare a speech. “That depends on the length of the speech,” answered the President. “If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”
From the thoughts of Pascal and Wilson (and many others who have made similar comments), you find a gold nugget and an important and profound reminder for all of us, which is being pithy and to-the-point often requires more thought and focus than simply bloviating.
I’ve lost count of the number of marketing pieces and copywriting examples I have critiqued over the years from verbose authors. Same with the number of times my mind has wandered while listening to speakers bloviate.
Ask any expert copywriter and they will tell you it is much harder to write short copy with PUNCH, than it is to write long rambling copy (as proof you can find entire trainings have been conducted on how to write bullets, which are a form of short copy).
The same goes with speaking in public and the pros know how to keep their audiences engaged without droning on and giving unnecessary details.
It’s my opinion business owners and marketers often do not invest the necessary time to craft messages that are on-point and pithy, and “fat” copy and conversations are often the sign of laziness and carelessness. Instead they take the easy way out and drone on and on using unnecessary words and details.
In today’s attention-deficit world, getting to the point as quickly as possible is necessary and marketers who make their point quickly and effectively stand a much greater chance of having their message read or heard (and responded to). I have written about the power of your ONE sentence here.
It’s interesting to note even the latest version of Microsoft Word is suggesting shorter and more pithy ways of writing and most times, I accept the suggestions offered.
Why use five words to say something, when it can be said just as effectively in two words?
Of course, many reading this article are students of long-form copywriting, as I am, but long-form copy must be used within the right context.
Dan Kennedy says, “Time investment precedes financial investment” and for the person interested in what you have to offer he is correct.
The person who is interested in what you are selling will take the time to read, or listen to, or watch your verbose message, but few others will.
All marketers need to be aware of where the target recipient is in the marketing process and craft message specific to that position. Early in the process, short, pithy messages typically do the best job of getting attention and interest. Then, as the prospect moves along the path of interest, and trust and rapport are built, you offer more in-depth, verbose details and dialog.
Making sure our marketing and communication-style is as efficient and effective as possible is an on-going process and one we must all revisit frequently. Here are three strategies I personally use:
Take a 24-Hour Break: For important copy, presentations, etc. I work in an interative process and often take at least a 24-hour break before revisiting my work to see if I can cut out the fat. This article was written on a Monday and reviewed today, Tuesday, before posting.
Cut the Fat: There are many unnecessary words we use out of habit when we write. One simple example is the word, “that.” Years ago, when working on a book, the copy-editor chastised me for my incessant use of “that” and I never forgot her lesson. If a sentence still makes sense after removing “that,” delete it. For example, “This is the most amazing Capuzzi article that I’ve ever read.” can be, “This is the most amazing Capuzzi article I’ve ever read.”
Another example I see often is the use of the words, “really” and “very.” These are useless modifiers and usually not needed in your copy or messaging. Mark Twain said, “Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Let a Kid Read It: Yes, I pay my teen-aged daughter to read and proof certain copy I write. If she doesn’t get what I am trying to convey, it’s back to editing.
Love to hear your thoughts on the power of being pithy and any specific strategies you use communicate effectively.