If you communicate with people, learn the Smart Brevity formula.
- Quick summary: The book outlines the formula Axios follows to produce content that gets straight to the point, is clear, and gives an audience the details they need without wasting their time. They call this formula “Smart Brevity” (Fun fact: I’m using some of the principles in this article!).
If you’ve ever read an Axios article (like this one), you’ve probably noticed their unique style of structuring content. A healthy use of bullet points, headlines, and bolded phrases. They’ve created a unique style that aides in reader comprehension.
You never see Axios articles that are long essays full of fancy words and nonsense. They put their audience first by giving them the details they need without wasting time.
- Why it matters: Smart Brevity is about respecting your audience’s time by getting to the point in the clearest, concisest way possible. If your message can be conveyed in 300 words, but you’re choosing to write 2,000 because you need to hit some arbitrary word count, you’re not putting your audience first.
Most people don’t want to read a 2,000 word article (especially if it’s not optimized for readability). Or flip through a 30 page slide deck. Or read a wordy email that muddles the core message.
- The outliers: Some topics need 2,000 words to explain or provide proper context (if it’s an article). However, there’s no excuse for not making it easy for your audience to digest the content.
The Smart Brevity formula is a refreshing take on common practices for structuring articles for maximum readability. However, it builds on these principles and can be applied to other areas of communication, like email and conversations.
3 Lessons from Smart Brevity
Get to the point and be clear.
Whether you’re writing an article or an email, get to the point in the clearest way possible.
- Why this matters: Getting to the point respects your audience’s time. Removing nonsense (e.g. fancy words) to boost clarity, will help them understand your message.
Due to factors such as SEO and the expectation for lengthy articles, writers have developed a tendency to be overly wordy. As a result, messages get lost in lengthy articles, time is wasted, and readers are left playing detective to uncover important messages and details. It has even crept into other areas of communication like texting.
Here’s a quick example of how the Smart Brevity formula can be applied to a text message:
|Pre Smart Brevity||Post Smart Brevity|
Hey, there’s a new plan for Jane’s birthday party on Saturday that we’ve been discussing. We’ve decided to go to the trampoline park instead of the amusement park because it will likely be less crowded.
The trampoline park is at 1234 trampoline blvd. We plan on getting there at 3pm.
|New birthday plan: trampoline park on Saturday at 3pm. Address is 1234 trampoline blvd.|
Both examples say the same thing.
The one that follows the Smart Brevity formula is clear and concise. It cuts out unnecessary words and sentences to surface the most important details the recipients needs to know.
Don’t waste people’s time.
People are busy.
If they have to look up a word to understand what you mean, you’re wasting their time. If you hide the punchline or key message in a sea of nonsense, you’re wasting their time. If you’re writing a lengthy blog post and don’t take time to make it easy to scan and understand the main point, you’re wasting their time.
- Do this: Put your audience first. Make it easy for them to get the most important information upfront and then allow them to dive deeper into the context if they want.
Give the most important details upfront and then provide additional context.
Speaking of context…
Have you ever asked someone a question and what should’ve been a simple answer turned into a 5 minute word salad before they finally got to the actual answer? 5 minutes you can’t get back.
While context matters, the message you want your audience to take away is more important. Don’t bury it in a jumble of words.
Whether you buy the Smart Brevity book or not, your job as a creator is . Attention spans or short, so you have a small window to capture attention. Don’t waste it on stuff that isn’t important.
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