Getting more power from fewer words

Getting more power from fewer words

Want to get people to pay attention to your memos, slides, sales letters — all your written business communications?

Then scuttle those lame adjectives, and replace them with strong “action” nouns and verbs. Ruth Walker has a great tip in the Verbal Energy blog: Think like a newspaper headline writer.

“Before there were flying thumbs punching messages into the tiny keyboards of (Blackberries), there were forceful forefingers hunting and pecking their way across the keyboards of manual typewriters. Long before you ever typed ‘btw, r u going 2 see me l8r?’ into your cellphone,” copy editors had learned to churn out tight, attention- grabbing headlines using powerful verbs:

  • Red Sox blast Rangers
  • N.W. utilities hail energy act
  • Admiral’s comments about submarine base irk local congressmen
  • Vandals vex vehicle owners

“Blast” is so much stronger (and shorter) than “defeat.” “Irk” is more telling than “annoy.” And “vex” would be a colorful choice, even if it didn’t add to the catchy alliteration. (Note: these words are fine for written communications, but probably wouldn’t work in speeches and presentations.)

To get people to pay attention to your message, choose catchy, colorful words that catch the eye and ear. They help you pack maximum meaning into the fewest possible words.

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