Think long. Write short.

In George Lois’ new book, Damn Good Advice (for People with Talent!), he offers stimulating ideas on how to create and sell big ideas. Here’s my favorite of his pointers:

“I’m sorry I could not have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time” –Abraham Lincoln

Lois writes, “Not too long after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered the iconic wartime Gettysburg Address of 1863 in under three minutes and in just 10 sentences (272 words he had written and rewritten and agonized over), he wrote a long letter, in miniscule handwriting to a friend. The apology above, that he didn’t have the time to contemplate, correct, and edit his letter, is the most lucid lesson in good writing I’ve ever read. Keep it short, informative, concise, and literary, where every single word counts. But remember: It’s not how short you make it; it’s how you make it short.
Think long. Write short.”

Mr. Lois strikes at the heart of communications. It’s tempting (and easier) to write long winded reports when a simple statement will do. We’ve all seen emails and correspondence that take three paragraphs to get to a single point. Perhaps the urge to write more rather than better is instilled early on, when teachers required papers that are ”three pages, 10 pt. font, double spaced.” I don’t know. But I couldn’t agree with him more. Think long. Write short. Good advice for all.

{Photo: George Lois via Fast Co. Design}

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