Be Ruthless Choosing Your Words!

A picture is worth a 1,000 words. 10 words is worth 10 words. Choose them wisely.

Here’s an example of a slide I was given as part of our Oracle E-Business Suite Extensions for Endeca (affectionately known as EEE or E^3 by myself) product collateral.

Endeca Example

There’s a lot of good things about this particular slide. This is certainly not the worst slide I’ve seen. That being said, I think we can do better. Let’s take even this seemingly compelling slide and propel it to the next level. Ok, so let’s roll!

There are a lot of words on that slide. 23 to be exact, including the irrelevant title. Naturally, the meaningless title was the first to go. Now onto the meat of the slide. Copywriting should force you to be concise. Be a ruthless editor of your material. Practice with Twitter. Sentences need emotion, passion, feeling and fire! So let’s take this slide and go through the process of putting it through the fire and get the gold of the message to be unmissable!

“I spend a quarter of my day gathering the pieces of information that I need to do my work.”

When I approach this task of distilling the message into a short attention grabbing sentence I begin with simply re-writing the sentence. I don’t necessarily focus on reducing the words. Just phrasing it differently. Sometimes the way a message is original phrased can inhibit your ability to distill the message.

“I spend a quarter of my day searching for information in order to do my work.”

I did here manage to cut down some of the words. We are now down to 16 words. 3 words cut out. We still have a way to go. My next version:

“Half my morning searching for information to do my job!”

10 words. Progress. With this particular version I felt that not only was the sentence shorter it actually had much more impact. The message at this point is still highly factual. Apart from the exclamation mark there is little to indicate whether this is bad or good. It might be a huge success. Maybe previously it was 1 week searching for information to do my job. It’s still vague. It lacks guts. We can still reduce the number of words father. There is too much information in this sentence.

“Half my morning wasted!… Again!”

Rather than being purely factual it now was more emotional. You can feel the pain in the words. Not only does the word waster bring in a sense of fruitlessness in the search, but also the frustration that this is an on-going pain. Again! It invokes feelings of being a mouse stuck on a mouse wheel. Here I am again doing busy work. Not adding value. Just fighting the constant uphill battle, draining my energy, and my enthusiasm to amplify the business.

Here’s the final slide I came up with. It probably could still be improved upon. In my view this is a journey. All my slides in all my decks are drafts. They are never done. There are consistently chances for improvement.

Endeca Example 2

Can you distill this message even further? How would you capture the pain and frustration experienced by this user?

Published by Matthew Halliday

Co-founder, EVP of Product Strategy at Incorta. Passion for design, UX, data, stories, and making beautiful things.

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