I was explaining my three words rule to some colleagues last month as we were trying to develop some key messages for an upcoming campaign. I said I wanted each message boiled down to both a three word phrase and a one sentence message.
That’s all the attention you can reasonably expect from anyone these days. If the three words aren’t enough to compel someone to read your one-sentence message, then you’ve lost them. Those three words are crucial.
At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man, I find myself appalled at the lack of education kids are getting these days. People graduate with communications degrees yet don’t have to read Ernest Hemingway or study poetry. Even just a little. Both are important training for micromarketing.
I got to thinking about this as I was reading the New York Times article on micro journalism that explains how reporters are increasingly using microblogs like Twitter on the job. The reporter made the point that services like Twitter, with their 140 character limits, have brought journalism full circle, in a sense. "Despite the new gadgetry, these journalists are actually rediscovering telegraphese â€” the clipped (ideally witty) style that flourished
because of word limits imposed by an earlier technology, the telegraph.
Today, it is the limits imposed by text-messaging."
Hemingway’s early writing experience, first at The Kansas City Star and then as a foreign correspondent with the Toronto Star, shaped his writing style. The short, vigorous, declarative sentences of the KC Star style guide became a hallmark of his fiction. And, in order to save money, telegraph dispatches he filed from France for the Toronto Star were boiled down to the essentials.
In contrast to his contemporary, William Faulkner, Hemingway’s fiction is spare. His "iceberg" theory of writing left much unsaid and left only the bare essential words on paper. It’s often said that Hemingway’s work uses the vocabulary of a high school student.
The point, of course, is that Hemingway whittled his message down to make it as compact as possible. The same is true, especially, of poetry. Choosing the precise words and strictly only the words that are needed is the thing when writing poetry.
Marketing, of course, is not literature but the skills to write poetry and compact prose will serve you well.