Avoid multisyllabic pileups

Long words are stuffy and hard to read

Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry spent eight years teaching businesspeople how to write better. As he told Time magazine:

“I’d lecture a bunch of chemists or engineers about the importance of not saying ‘It would be appreciated if you would contact the undersigned by telephone at your earliest possible convenience,’ and instead saying ‘Please call me as soon as you can.’ That was revealed wisdom to these people.”
Avoid multisyllabic pileups

Small wonder “Short words are best, and old words when short are the best of all,” said Winston Churchill. Image by Jill Catley

Take a tip from Barry: Avoid multisyllabic exhibitions of verbosity. Use short words.

What’s wrong with long words?

Why avoid long words? Because they…

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“William Shakespeare wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters.”
— Kurt Vonnegut, American novelist

Use short words

Reach more people

More than 80 years of research prove it, again and again: The shorter your words, the easier your message is to read.

In fact, much of that research suggests that word length is the No. 1 predictor of readability.

The sky is not the limit

The sky is not the limit Set a target, based on proven-in-the-lab best practices, for your average word length. Then measure your messages for that target and edit to that target. Image by 29cm

So how short should your words be? And how do we know?

Find out at Catch Your Readers — a two-day writing Master Class on June 28-29 in San Diego.

There, you’ll get 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 learn:

  • How long is too long for your words, sentences and paragraphs
  • 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.)

You can still save $100 with our early bird discounts, but only if you act by May 28. Don’t miss out. Register now.

“Simply eye-opening.”
— KC Kirimoto, vice president, Product & Global Communications, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A

Polish your skills at our upcoming Master Classes

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

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

Register for Creative writing workshop in Los Angeles on Feb. 23-24, 2017
Rather bring Ann in to train your whole team?

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:

  • Houston: Nov. 2-3
  • Los Angeles: Feb. 23-24, 2017
  • New Orleans: June 6-8
  • New York: Sept. 28-29
  • Portland: July 27-28
  • San Diego: June 28-29

Keep up with my calendar.