Keep It Simple

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Have you heard of “KISS?” (Keep It Simple Sweetie!)

Here is what some famous authors have said about simplicity. They all support the notion that short and sweet is the way to go.

“I never write ‘metropolis’ for seven cents when I can write ‘city’ and get paid the same.”
– Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
–Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

“The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.”
  — George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans, 1819-1880)

“Be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.”
  — H.W. Fowler (1858-1933)

“The shorter and the plainer the better.”
  — Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)

“Use the smallest word that does the job.”
  — E.B. White (1899-1985)

There has been extensive research on people’s reading comprehension. Clearly people read and comprehend shorter paragraphs, sentences and even words better than longer versions. Think about the last presentation you attended. I think you will agree the same holds true for the spoken word.

What seems erudite, classy and proper written out often sounds pretentious and unnatural when spoken. People want to be addressed in a real way by a real person. They crave a connection with the speaker, and want to feel the speaker is right there with them, engaged in a kind of conversation. Of course they may not be conscious of it, but we all want to be listened to and attended to…even if we are in the audience.

For that reason, it’s so much more conversational and engaging to use shorter words whenever possible. That’s not to say you should compromise the meaning of your message. But it’s never necessary to use long-winded jargon or business speak when a simple standard English word will do. Think “use” instead of “utilize.”

In terms of sentence construction, less is more too. Use direct, active sentences. “We acted” rather than “we took action” or worse yet “actions were taken.” It’s more immediate for the audience. You also appear to take more responsibility for what you are saying. You exude more of a sense of honesty which enhances their trust in you.

So keep it simple sweetie! You’ll build and strengthen your connection with the audience. That connection draws them in and keeps them interested.

Until the next time…

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