I bet you’ve heard the old saying, ”Less is more.” I don’t like it because I think it’s too passive. We need a phrase that is more direct and really gets to the heart of why we can’t have cluttered messages – here goes:
“The more you say, the more they forget.”
What do I mean by a cluttered message? I mean 10-word phrases when four or five words would get the message across. I mean words with three syllables when you could easily use a mono-syllable. I mean a video shot that has distracting objects in it that are irrelevant to the message.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Canadian writing specialist Crawford Killian. He says, “Every word must fight for its life.”
If you can remove a word from any sentence and it does not change the meaning of the sentence, leave that word out of the sentence. If you can replace three words with one, do it.
This is a principle that goes beyond words.
It applies to every message element in your media such as music and sound effects in your podcasts. Can you shorten an introductory music piece and still create the same effect? Then do it.
When it comes to video, do you really need thirty seconds of someone walking down a pathway when four or five will get the message across?
When you review your media, always ask yourself, ” what can I cut out?”
It’s very easy to put more into a message than we need because we like the tool we’re using. This is why I think many people use big words. They’re focused on using a word they like rather than on their message. If they focus on their message they will use whatever happens to be the most effective word.
As media communicators, our job is to create understanding and the best way of doing this is to reduce cognitive load and an important way to do this is de-clutter our messages.
Jonathan Halls is a recognized teacher and consultant in the areas of media production and the dynamics or modern organizations. He has forged his knowledge through both research and real life experience. His leadership and change programs are based both on the latest thinking and his real experience leading large teams and facilitating organizational change. His media training is based on the latest thinking and his experience working with leading media companies throughout the world as well as his experience as a former journalist and talk show host.