Keep it Succinct: Honing your Brevity Skills

“If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.” – Mark Twain

Learning to express yourself succinctly takes dedication, energy and time, but it’s a worthwhile skill to acquire. As a matter of fact, it’s seen as an indicator of great leadership and is becoming increasingly important in business interactions (Brevity Just Might Save Your Career).

So, how does one hone their brevity skills?

1.  Practice (with Twitter)

Seriously. It forces you to express yourself in 140 characters or less. There’s no room for rambling, redundancies or unnecessary words.

Action: Tweet at least once a day, expressing different ideas and concepts.

2.  Cut the ROT

Identify and delete any content that is redundant, outdated, or trivial. Stick to your point and get to the punchline, fast. Saying more can obscure your message.

It’s one thing when a communication platform restricts the number of characters you can use to express yourself, but what happens when you need to exercise self-discipline?

Action: Incorporate ROT in your editing process. Look for repetitive words or references that are (or will soon be) outdated. Watch out for these common “fluff” words that don’t add to your message: “very,” “that,” “in order to,” “in a sense,” “for the purpose of,” and “a bit.”

3.  Use Visuals (Hello Infographics)

You’re willing and ready to present your ideas concisely. But how? One word: visuals.

Action: Explore infographics. By design, infographics are built around supporting one core idea, which can help from veering off topic. A good infographic is equal parts design, data, story and shareability. It utilizes headlines, white space and simplicity, to communicate more while saying less.

4.  Practice Your Poetry

Japanese poetry style Haiku has only three lines of verse and a total of seventeen syllables. The first line contains five syllables; the second seven, and five again in the last verse. Each word – and syllable – holds a great amount of weight, given how condensed these poems are. Writing haikus will help you to carefully consider every word you use.

Action: Set aside some time at lunch and write a haiku daily. You can even use your lunch as inspiration.

Tuna fish on rye
All-encompassing odor
Sorry, office mates

The bottom line? Brevity is critical to successful communication. Like all skills, brevity can be strengthened and honed with practice.

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