Instructions for Building a Watch

Jerry Rackley

By Jerry Rackley

I once had a boss who taught me the meaning of the phrase, “when someone asks you what time it is, don’t provide instructions for building a watch.” I confess to being rather impatient. For most communications, I don’t want the War and Peace version of something when the Cliff’s Notes version is available. What this impatience really represents is a style of communication that marketers should care deeply about: brevity.

The reason marketers should care is because the attention spans of the people we’re trying to reach are at an all time low. No, I don’t have research data to back up that claim, but I don’t find anyone who will argue this point either. Being concise is a significant advantage in marketing communications. The longer your ad, case study, web page, marketing brochure, promotional video, ____________ (fill in the blank with your own marketing material) is, the less likely it will get consumed. Shorter is usually better, unless you’re writing about brain surgery or rocket science.

Because I’m a ruthless editor of marketing materials, always on a mission to slash the word count, I loved an article written by Laura Hale Brockway that recently appeared in Ragan’s PR Daily, “20 Phrases You Can Replace With One Word”. For example, she suggests replacing “due to the fact that” with “because”. Ahhh. What a breath of fresh air. We should all read Laura’s article, commit it to memory, and tattoo it on the forearm of our writing hand.

Fellow marketers, let’s be role model communicators. We can be clever and concise, combatting redundancy and delivering the most effective communications. We can do this! After all, it’s not rocket surgery…

Click over the John Atkinson’s blog, Wrong Hands to view his wonderful collection of cartoons, including the one used to illustrate this blog post.


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