Author of ‘Smart Brevity’ Shares His Super Simple Secret to Impactful Communication

Stop sign

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Just stop.

You’ve probably come across the famous Blaise Pascal quote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” 

We’ll try to keep this brief: Brevity is more effective. Unfortunately, it’s often easier to drone on and on. 

The master of concise messaging, co-founder of Axios, and author of Smart Brevity Mike Allen agrees. Recently, he shared his successful communication tip with us. And it’s unsurprisingly succinct:

 “Just stop.” 

Allen believes we should put in the work beforehand — researching the subject, identifying the most important takeaways, and figuring out how we want to express whatever it is we’re speaking about — and then keep the actual message quick and simple. 

“In any meeting, if you come away with one thing, that’s a huge win,” Allen told KCM. “You’re not going to remember everything else. So, what’s the one thing you want people to remember? This is the hack of smart brevity. Just figure out what you want to say with clarity, say it in the language they speak, and say it early on in the conversation.” 

He points out that this works in written format, as well. “Most people on your team, most bosses, are going to look at your emails, give you a couple of minutes, and then move on. So, the key is leaving them with the most actionable points, having taken the time yourself to write the short version (which, of course, is always harder). They’re going to appreciate the brevity.” 

You can bet Allen was very intentional about the length of his book, which hits shelves in September. “It’s approximately 28,000 words,” he revealed. “That’s the exact least number of words that a book can be to still be a book. And I’ll tell you a secret: You could boil the whole book down to two words — and this applies in a conversation, in a PowerPoint deck, or in a meeting. It applies to asking for a raise. It applies to breaking up with a significant other. Those two words are: Just stop.” 

He explains, “Just stop. If you think about a best man’s toast at a wedding, have you ever heard someone say, ‘I wish that were a little longer?’” 

With that, we’ll stop.