This is a Guest Article Written By Matt Goldberg!
During an interesting discussion with my “Grammar Geeks” online group (don’t ask, but I think it’s a term of endearment), the following quote from Thomas Jefferson was shared.
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
Reacting to this quote from our immortal third President, a fellow Geek astutely noted, “He could have said, ‘The most valuable talent…’, thereby saving two words.” I daresay that he was correct.
My point is not to point out that even the greatest wordsmiths who ever lived are capable of minor errors (quite ironic in this case), but that there is great truth in Jefferson’s quote.
So, what does this have to do with us as speakers? Quite a lot, actually.
As I have learned from writing everything from articles to books to speeches, sometimes it’s much easier to write than to edit. There’s an old, borrowed quip that it takes a week or two to write a book, and a year or two to edit it. It’s hard to cut out words, especially if we feel some investment in them. Yet, often it’s worth it to cut things close to the bone.
So, how do we know which is the meat, and which is the fat?
We don’t always, as this is more art than science, and the style of presentation and type of audience will help to dictate some guidelines. Still, I would offer these four quick rules of thumbs, so that we keep the meat – to connect with our audience – while leaving the fat behind.
- Look to cut out words that don’t add any color, nuance or emotion to our stories.
- Great communication is mostly about forging connections through resonant stories. Favor dialogue over narration; often, it’s more concise and more memorable.
- Don’t try too hard to impress the audience. Also, avoid jargon, and any words that may actually create distance between you and your audience.
- Don’t be afraid to use “fancy” words if they are descriptive. You don’t need to dumb your vocabulary down; just don’t rely upon a thesaurus to do your talking for you. In fact, I would argue that having a solid vocabulary may actually enable you to use fewer words.
Utilizing these four guidelines should help you craft presentations that really resonate with your audience. And, you may even feel a little more Jeffersonian in the process.