Keep It Simple, Keep It Memorable

Keep It Simple, Keep It MemorableI used to spend a lot of time with fancy words.

In fact, I still do. I like the nuance of expression that’s possible with expansive and sophisticated language. Words like obfuscate, obliterate, and obviate can really dial-in a sentiment. These words are really precise.

But they’re not powerful. They’re not persuasive.

I have spent a lot of time and energy carefully deploying sophisticated language in all sorts of communications over the years. When I’ve done this with written or verbal communication, I’ve often felt really smart. I’ve probably even impressed a few people.

Eventually I figured out that while I may have felt smart, I wasn’t being smart.

Because what I wanted to do in these communications was influence people. I wanted them to adopt my viewpoint or support my idea, not impress them with my command of language.

Eventually I figured out that simple is more powerful than complex ones, because simple words are clear. Simple words speak more directly to a base emotion. And it’s emotion that moves people to act.

So now I’d more likely use confuse instead of obfuscate, destroy instead of obliterate, and prevent instead of obviate. Less poetic, but more effective in the world of work.

To get movement and momentum, a blunt instrument is often better than a precision tool. To convey big ideas, it’s often better to paint a picture with broad strokes. To be clear and compelling, it’s often better to speak to the underlying emotions than the rational surface layers.

Try it out for yourself. Take an issue where you’re trying to influence the outcome and talk about it and write about it in plain and simple language. Be professional, but be blunt. Use small words (which actually carry a bigger punch).

See what kind of reactions you start to get. See which of your words and phrases start to get picked up and repeated by others. See if you can get some momentum.