April 28, 2017

Less is more

The longer your piece, the less readers will read

Size does matter.

The longer your story, the less of it your readers will read — and the less likely they are to understand and act on it.

Less is more

They’d love it more if it were shorter Add words, and you reduce reading, according to 60 years of research. Image by Divya Pillai

That’s according to 60 years of research correlating story length with readership, comprehension, decision-making — even jam buying and 401(k) plan participation.

“We take it, as a given, that the more information decision makers have, the better off they are,” writes Malcolm Gladwell in Blink. But “all that extra information isn’t actually an advantage at all … In fact [it‘s] more than useless. It’s harmful. It confuses the issues.”

Increase reading by 33%.

Wilbur Schramm, the “father of communication studies,” was one of the first people to study the effect of story length on reading. In 1947, he interviewed 1,050 readers about what they read, how much and why they stopped. He found that …

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“Now close your eyes and go to sleep or Daddy will read you more of his novel.”
New Yorker cartoon by Danny Shanahan

Readers want less

The more info you give readers, the less they’ll understand

The more details you give ER doctors, the less likely they are to correctly diagnose that someone is having a heart attack in the emergency room now.

Readers want less

Make it shorter, and maybe I will “Brevity is the sister of talent,” said Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright. So how brief should your message be? Image by Ann Larie Valentine

The more data you give accountants, the worse they’ll do at figuring out which companies will go bankrupt within five years. The more text you give physics students, the lower their grades on tests.

So how long is too long?

At Cut Through the Clutter — a two-day tight-writing Master Class on May 11-12 in Chicago — you’ll learn “the numbers” you need to measurably improve your copy’s readability. And you’ll get the research you need to sell managers and approvers on these targets.

Specifically, you’ll discover:

  • How long is too long for your paragraphs, sentences and words
  • Three ways to shorten your copy — and which is the best way
  • How to use a cool (free!) tool to quantifiably improve your copy’s readability (We’ve seen readability rise by as much as 1,246% in one hour during these classes.)

This is the only Cut Through the Clutter Master Class we’ve scheduled for this year and our only Chicago workshop. Don’t miss your only chance in 2016 to learn to make everything you write easier to read and understand. Register now.

Register now

“I learned more in this two-day class than I did in my two-year master’s program.”
— Rochelle Juette, communications specialist, Washington Closure Hanford

Polish your skills at our 2016 Master Classes

Learn to Catch Your Readers, Get Clicked, Cut Through the Clutter and more

Register for persuasive writing workshop in Atlanta on April 20-21
Register for tight writing workshop in Chicago on May 11-12

Register for writing workshop in San Diego on June 28-29
Register for PR writing workshop in Portland on July 27-28

Register for Online writing workshop in New York on Sept. 28-29
Register for writing workshop in Houston on Nov. 2-3
Rather bring Ann in to train your whole team?
Contact Ann directly.

Catch Ann on the road

Save when you book a workshop while I’m in your neighborhood

Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:

  • Atlanta: April 20-21
  • Bloomington, Indiana: April 5
  • Chicago: May 11-12
  • Houston: Nov. 2-3
  • New Orleans: June 6-8
  • New York: Sept. 28-29
  • Portland: July 27-28
  • Raleigh, North Carolina: May 3-4
  • San Diego: June 28-29

Keep up with my calendar.