By Kevin Meyer
Consider the following:
In order to accomplish a best-in-market customer experience, instill a differentiated skill-set, and bring the relevant institutional knowledge, skills, and facilitation expertise in-house, we have identified five mission-critical goals.
Designers work to envision and create spaces, systems, languages, tools and infrastructure that afford specific kinds of relationships and predispositions towards each other and our world.
Now I know I probably have a touch of ADD since I stop at "differentiated," but does anyone really understand those two statements? At least the first time? Megan Hustad penned a piece for CNN Money that discusses how even in the age of Twitter we seem to have a propensity to cram multiple thoughts into a single sentence.
So, what if the problem isn't incomplete sentences but the fact that we are using lists to convey big, unwieldy ideas that lists aren't capable of communicating?
Megan even talked to our old friend Matthew May:
I asked Matthew E. May, author of The Laws of Subtraction, where the compulsion to stuff multiple ideas into a single sentence comes from. He faulted a lack of self-control. "Without the discipline, instinct takes over," he says. "Our hardwired instinct is to add, as slack resources make us feel safe."
In competitive work situations, overstuffing your communications often seems like a safer bet than running the risk of leaving something out. But that instinct for self-preservation may be doing more harm than good, says May.
Perhaps. Although I seem to think unnecessarily complex sentences are sort of like unnecessarily complex words: the mark of an insecure intellect. The same reason I immediately ignore anyone that uses the term "vis-à-vis" - always the sign of a wonk that doesn't live in the real world. Ok, maybe I'm just a simple man and I should stick with Matt's thesis.
Here's an interesting concept from the article, in the same vein as applying 5S concepts to email and such: how about 5Sing your actual writing?
A routine revision process also helps. May says he scans his paragraphs for every instance of the word "and." Then he tries -- "not always successfully," he adds -- to eliminate what follows each "and." Hot and sticky becomes hot, period.
Deciding what can go unmentioned is hard work. It involves, as Bezos suggested, clear thinking. It means assessing the importance of each element in isolation and as part of the whole.
I like that idea. Scrutinize "and" and (oops) I'd probably add commas, and (oops) harshly evaluate what comes after.
As Matt May points out in his recent book, The Laws of Subtraction, what isn't there can often convey more meaning that what is.