Write short and direct

Short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Simple writing is easier to understand. Get straight to the point, and keep your logic clean. No need for flowers or decoration.


  • Potent advice from one of my personal favourite writers, Kurt Vonnegut: “Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately,” he wrote, “Pity the reader.” — it’s tough work to decode all these words, so take away cognitive load wherever you can.
  • Every time you say complicated words like “utilise” or “monetisation”, the reader needs to do some mental processing to turn that word into the words that he actually understands. Every time that happens, he’s forced to pay attention to your words, rather than to your message. That’s a missed opportunity.
  • When writing, learn to create whitespace around your ideas. Learn how to phrase them. Learn how to space them. Learn how to repeat them. (see what we did there?). Create rhythm, and flow. Create space for your ideas to breathe.
  • One idea per email or article. One idea per paragraph. One idea per sentence. Don’t cram it together. Space things out, so that each idea can stand on its own. And if it can’t stand on its own? Then maybe it’s not such a powerful idea in the first place.
  • There are great tools available, like the Hemingway app, or also many AI tools, that can quickly help you simplify the words that you are using. Simple is almost always better. Easy reading makes for happy, engaged readers.
  • To write short and direct is more about the style of your writing, than the length of the piece. Of course you should try to capture ideas as succinctly as you can, but don’t sacrifice clarity for brevity. Clarity always comes first.
  • Another way to greatly simplify things for people? Bullet points. Bullet points help break things down, implicitly communicate structure, and help quickly jab out ideas.

In Practice

Many of the world’s most celebrated writers write short and direct. Hemingway famously did, but so did Charles Bukowski, or Roald Dahl, or Seth Godin. Donald Trump is short and direct, too. And so is practically every comedian. So was Elon Musk, when he wrote the “Tesla Masterplan”.

Pair with

  • Scott Adams, The Day You Became A Better Writer
  • Elon Musk’s Tesla Masterplan
  • Winston Churchill speeches
The more you tell, the more you sell