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To write with clarity and simplicity*

Posted on January 26th 2016

*Advice from The Economist Magazine’s Style Guide for their staff writers.

It is a difficult maxim to maintain but it is sound advice to anyone either contemplating tapping the keyboard or putting pen to paper. Here are a couple of simple tips I try to follow:

Less is more

In these attention-sparse days, short-form copy has become the norm for many media channels from Twitter to Facebook, the web to broadcast news. Messages must be distilled to their absolute essence. I draw the analogy of boiling a stock pot: the final reduction delivers a rich concentration.

Get to the heart of the message

When composing promotional messages, whatever the channel of communication, don’t get side-tracked. Catch the attention of your reader by getting to the nub of the subject quickly. Great advertising copy writers like David Ogilvy urged his agency writers to make certain that headlines held a either a selling message or a benefit. He also advised: ‘Do not address your audience as if they are in a stadium. When people read your copy they are alone. Pretend you are writing them a letter.’ Don’t let product or service features get in the way of customer benefits.