The Leadership Blog

Write Less: Say More

better communication communication leadership leadership lessons smart brevity writing tools Dec 10, 2023

I’ve been a writer my entire life.  I won my first essay contest in the third grade, and I was hooked. I’ve been studying the art of communications through writing for decades but in 2007 the world changed.  That’s when we got smartphones and people had the power of accessing anything in the palm of their hand.  When that happened, it was the beginning of the end of our desire, or attention span, to read long articles.

We need to radically rethink the way we communicate, especially when it comes to writing.  This week I watched an impressive TEDx Talk by Jim VandeHei. He’s a journalist who used to cover the white house.  He started two online journalism organizations Politico and now he’s the CEO of Axios.  I rarely let a day go by without reading Axios. This online news organization boasts the concept of smart brevity.  Most articles are less than 300 words and use bullet points to make it easier to read. Why do we need to improve our written communication?  People aren’t paying attention. Research shows we share online content based on the pictures or a headline.  We haven’t read the whole article.  At best we’ve skimmed it. 

We’re so distracted by our phones.  Data shows we look at them, on average, 250 times a day.  

Here are five tips VandeHei recommends to help us improve our writing so people will actually read it.

  • Stop being selfish: Don’t write what you want.  Write what people need to know.  
  • Grab Me: If you only had 26 seconds, how would you get my attention and what would you say?  
  • Keep it simple: You’re not writing a term paper for college.  Share what people need to know.  
  • Write like a human: Don’t stiffen up or pretend you’re Walt Whitman.  
  • Just stop: Give people their time back.

 I hope these simple but powerful tips encourage you to rethink your writing. I shared them with you in 340 words.  Looks like I’ve still got some work to do when it comes to smart brevity.