Less is more … or, short is sweet

Posted November 1, 2011

Once upon a time, I was a writer. Or to put it more accurately, I got my start in the communications business as a news writer. And the cardinal rule there was: write a great opening paragraph, answer the 5Ws, then elaborate in an “inverted pyramid” format.

Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs. The main idea up top. And the details provided in descending order of importance. Put your best foot forward, to use another cliché, then get out of there fast.

When you send me your copy, the first thing I do is read it, as an editor would.
That’s because the design springs from the copy. If your main point isn’t crystal clear from the outset, then it’s hard for me to come up with a persuasive design.

If I can understand immediately what you’re trying to say, then it’s off the races with your design. But if not, then I will question your priorities and possibly suggest a copy edit before I proceed. (I won’t edit the copy myself, but can sub-contract that to any number of professionals I work with.)

Good copy is a designer’s best friend – I don’t want to start until I’m on really good terms with yours.

For projects that are meant to be read in a few seconds or minutes (brochures, posters, postcards, print ads), you can expect that I’ll be ruthless about one thing: less is more.

That’s because your audience usually has a lot less time than you do when it comes to your product, service or program. They want to know what it’s about, and what’s in it for them. Period. You can’t drown that message in a ton of words, lest they miss it.

I could say a lot more about this, but I’ll stop there. Get my point?

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