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When faced with a webpage full of text or a long email people frequently don’t read it. Their rationale is TL/DR (too long/didn’t read).  Lazy – maybe – but more likely they are busy.

If it takes a lot of words to say it, readers don’t think you’ve really thought it through. How many meetings have you attended where someone rambled on until they figured out what they were trying to say? How often do you find yourself thinking – get to the point!

The idea that brevity is a virtue is not a new one. Historians agree that the finest speech ever given in the English language is the Gettysburg address. It was 272 words, delivered in under three minutes. Winston Churchill, one of the great orators of the 20th century, was once asked how long it would take him to prepare for a two hour speech. He replied “oh, about twenty minutes”. Impressed, the interviewer replied – “well then for a 15 minute speech can I surmise that you would need only a minute or two?” “Oh no”, replied Churchill, “for that I’d need about two weeks”.

Editing is hard work but the reward is simple – people will read it. The next time you write something go back and cut it in half.

The text you just read is 213 words. Following is the same essay cut in half to 103 words.

Faced with a long email or wordy website people often skip it – TL/DR (too long/didn’t read). It’s easy to chalk this up to laziness but we’re all busy so if it takes lots of words to say it people can justifiably ask if you have really thought it through.

Brevity is a virtue. Abraham Lincoln famously started letters with “I apologize for such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Historians agree that his Gettysburg Address is the finest speech ever given in the English language. It was 272 words, delivered in under three minutes. Food for thought.