We use too many words to communicate. If you need convincing, scan a piece of junk mail from a credit card, mobile phone or investment company. There, hidden among the hyperbole, double speak and legal CYAs, you might be lucky enough to find the intended message. Or not.
This tendency to overwrite probably started back in middle school, when teachers began attaching minimum length requirements to written assignments. That’s when so many of us found new and creative ways to stretch three pages of content into ten. It’s amazing how many adjectives you can string together when you really try. And today, lots of us are trying our best.
What’s the harm? Words make us sound smart, cultured and qualified. So more must be better. Not always.
As marketers, we have a small window of opportunity to catch our target’s attention and communicate our message. If we don’t engage them within the first few sentences (at most) and waste their time with unnecessary verbiage, we risk losing their interest. We miss striking while the iron is hot.
Another reason to keep it simple is that people don’t read as much as they use to. Just look at the current state of the newspaper industry. Given this reality, why would any savvy marketer make a prospect work hard to understand the message?
As a writer, I know the value of using words sparingly. Even so, I still tend to overwrite. So, before I present any work, I give it to a colleague to read. Preferably one who knows nothing at all about the subject. If I see that this person doesn’t “get it,” there’s a good chance I have too many words and too little content.
The solution? Surgery. I cut words, cut more words and finally I cut more words again. Nine times out of 10, what’s left over when I’m done is more easily digestible and persuasive than the original draft.
Give it a try. Next time you’re preparing an eblast, advertisement or blog post, look closely at the content and start deleting those extra words. You’ll find that less really can be more.