Quote Of The Week: Be Brief Or Be Ignored

Stop being boring with these thoughts on brevity—and download the poster to put on your office door. The office blowhard will get the hint.

Every Monday, tune in to Fast Company Leadership for a quote to get your week started right.

This week's quote comes from Joseph McCormack, author of Brief: Making a Bigger Impact by Saying Less.:

“Brevity is an essential skill that can propel people’s career in an age where the people that they’re talking to are overwhelmed.”

If you're struggling to grab your audience's attention—on the Internet or in the board room—say more with less.

Here's how to avoid a longwinded rant, from Lisa Evans's article "Less Is More: Why You're Saying Too Much And Getting Ignored:"

You're not prepared. Being brief on the fly is difficult. Take the time, before wasting theirs, to concentrate on what you want to convey.

You have something to prove. Rambling does not equal knowledge—just the opposite. If you're trying to show how smart you are, get to the point, without diversion. "If you can present your point well in two pages, then I’ll read the 20-page paper to see how you got there,” McCormack says.

Your listener is at max capacity. "McCormack says the human brain has the capacity to absorb 750 words a minute, but the average person can only speak about 150 words a minute, meaning there’s an extra 600 words that can float around in the receiver’s brain," Evans writes.

Click here to download a printable poster of the Quote of the Week.

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4 Comments

  • wtahir

    the average brain can absorb 750 words per minute and we can speak only 150 per minute - doesn't that mean there's room for more rather than less?

  • lpsh

    Truthfully, I am getting tired of hearing this. Brevity in and of itself is not necessarily effective or good communication. Lack of brevity is not always rambling. It seems to me that this is also used as an excuse not to attend to others; not to reflect and reply thoughtfully and not to provide complete information.

  • Get the habit of asking, "What does he or she really need to know, and how can I communicate that simply?" Not the question that we usually ask, "How do I show them how much I know."

  • Nov. 17(?), 1863, the main speaker at Gettysburg was famed orator Edward Everett, who spoke for about 2 hours. Afterward, Abraham Lincoln got up and spoke for 2 minutes. Whose speech is remembered? Be brief and to the point.