June 26, 2017

Aim for one-syllable words

Churchill was right — short words are best

What do you notice about this passage, excerpted from an article in The Economist?

Tell it like Churchill

Tell it like Churchill Want to improve reading ease? Use mostly one-syllable words. Image by BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

“‘Short words are best,’ said Winston Churchill, ‘and old words when short are the best of all.’

“And, not for the first time, he was right: short words are best. Plain they may be, but that is their strength. They are clear, sharp and to the point. You can get your tongue round them. You can spell them. Eye, brain and mouth work as one to greet them as friends, not foes. For that is what they are. They do all that you want of them, and they do it well.

“On a good day, when all is right with the world, they are one more cause for cheer. On a bad day, when the head aches, you can get to grips with them, grasp their drift and take hold of what they mean. And thus they make you want to read on, not turn the page. …’”

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“Never use a big word when a diminutive phrase can be utilized.”
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Cut Through the Clutter

Measure, monitor and manage readability with a cool (free!) tool

Would your message be twice as good if it were half as long?

The research says yes: The shorter your piece, the more likely readers are to read your message, understand it and make good decisions based on it.

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Get a clutter-cutting workout with Wylie Boost readability by up to 300% when you practice your new skills on your own work. Image by Delete

But most communicators (and, let’s be fair, their reviewers) ignore the research and keep piling on the paragraphs. The result? “You’re not more informed,” writes Tom Rosenstiel, former media critic for the Los Angeles Times. “You’re just numbed.”

So how long is too long? What’s the right length for your piece? Your paragraphs? Your sentences? Your words?

At Cut Through the Clutter — our two-day tight-writing master class on April 6-7, 2017, in Washington, D.C. — you’ll run your message through a cool (free!) tool to measure, monitor and manage readability.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Analyze your message for 27 readability metrics — and leave with quantifiable targets, tips and techniques for improving each one.
  • Increase reading, understanding and sharing with five techniques for cutting your copy significantly.
  • Stop discombobulating readers with long sentences. Leave this workshop with 11 metrics for reducing sentence length and increasing comprehension.
  • Avoid causing your reader to skip your paragraphs. Find out how long is too long — and leave with three ways to shorten paragraphs.
  • Eliminate multisyllabic pileups from your copy. They’re the No. 1 predictor of poor readability.

This is the only writing workshop we have planned in Washington, D.C. in 2017. Don’t miss out on your chance to Cut Through the Clutter in D.C.! Register now.

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