For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn

For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn

Frank Kenna III

By, Frank Kenna III on Tuesday March 21, 2017

Ernest Hemingway allegedly wrote those words in response to a bet that he could write a novel in six words. He won the bet. This is a great example of the importance of strong word choice and brevity, both requirements for quality workplace communications.

While using only six words in typical company communications is unlikely, you get the point. Your employees want to know what’s going on, but they don’t want – or have time – to read over-written pieces of content.

Here are some tips for writing tight copy:

1. Know the exact value proposition you’re trying to express. Then think of your target audience. Now try to convey the proposition to the audience in as few words possible.

2. Edit your text a couple of times. Delete any unneeded and weak words such as ‘probably,’ ‘approximately,’ and ‘somewhat.’ Getting rid of them will make your message more direct and powerful. I like to do the second edit a few hours after the first if I have time, as the piece looks different after marinating for awhile. This also includes words of being, i.e., change “she was smiling” to “she smiled.”

3. Think of a good title/headline. A poor one like, “Changes to your 401k plan” would be more compelling if it read, “Grow your 401k plan 25% faster!”

4. Pretend you have a character limit, like a Twitter feed. Try to restrict your copy as close to that as possible.

5. Make your point in the beginning sentence or two. If you don’t, people won’t read the rest anyway.

6. Get someone else to read it to make sure it makes sense and there aren’t any typos. Take it from me, a fresh pair of eyes always helps. The “editor” can be a co-worker, boss, significant other…anyone with a keen eye for the details mentioned above.

These are some basic tips that will help you communicate more effectively with your employees. If you want to read more like them, check out this link.

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