Less is more in business writing

We live in world supersaturated with words. Written words, spoken words; in print and online – there’s an endless stream of them assaulting our senses. Getting your message or your company story heard amongst all the other voices is getting harder.

More precise customer segmentation and targetting clearly helps. But these tools have little effect if your audience doesn’t have the time to read or listen to what you have to say. Clarity and concision will always trump a cascade of ‘content’.

As Dr Seuss put it:

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.

Those of us writing in the digital world need to pay special heed to the demands of busy readers. Fortunately, apps such as Buffer can help to track the performance of social media content. They have even produced a useful infographic that tells you the optimal length for social media posts, headlines, blogs and more.

For instance, they suggest that the optimal length of an online paragraph should be 40-55  characters. So, I should split my previous paragraph in half to make it easier to read.

Of course, content isn’t just words. Graphic design and typography are also important. Buffer gives this advice:

Opening paragraphs with larger fonts and fewer characters per line make it easier for the reader to focus and to jump quickly from one line to the next.

Concise writing not only helps you stay within these optimal word and character counts, it also improves the ‘flow’, and makes it easier to read.

This is the secret that most good writers know and work hard at to achieve:

Anybody can have ideas – the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.  Mark Twain

I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.  Elmore Leonard

It may be harder to write fewer words but it’s worth the effort.



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3 Responses to Less is more in business writing

  1. Harry Alexander says:

    Sue, nice article. Good points on parsimony.

    Reminds me of Cicero’s comment in one of his communications: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”

    Thanks, Sue.

  2. Sue says:

    Thanks, harry.

    That quote is a great oen but seems to be attributed to so many people – Twain, Pascal, even Churchill!

  3. Harry Alexander says:

    You’re welcome, Sue.

    I’ve seen that phenomenon before — where the man or woman who reportedly said something wasn’t actually the one who did.

    Whether Cicero was the first or not, we who attempt to write concisely (and in my case usually fail) have all experienced it! That’s undoubtedly why it’s so striking a phrase. At least to us.

    Thanks for your reply, Sue.


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