Brevity, According to Winston Churchill

My colleagues and I speak and write all the time about the importance of getting to the point. We talk about the importance of respecting your audience’s time, managing their attention span, and how our fast-paced 21st century world makes this skill a critical one.

It turns out that a pretty famous guy, Winston Churchill, agrees with us. Thanks to our good friend, Timothy Post, who read a recent blog entry here and sent us the link to this gem of a memo, dated 9 August 1940. The memo was written by (or at least dictated by) Winston Churchill, at the time the Prime Minister of England.

And in this memo, Mr. Churchill implores his colleagues, and their staffs, to respect each other’s time and energy spent “looking for the essential points.” But rather than try to do Mr. Churchill’s directive justice through paraphrase, let me simply get to the point, and quote him directly:

The aim should be reports which set out the main points in a series of short, crisp paragraphs.

If a report relies on detailed analysis or some complicated factors, or on statistics, these should be set out in an appendix.

Often the occasion is best met by submitting not a full-dress report, but an aide-memoire consisting of headings only, which can be expanded orally if needed.

Reports drawn up on the lines I propose may at first seem rough as compared with the flat surface of officialese jargon. But the saving in time will be great, while the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking.

Exactly! Just like Mr. Churchill said.

Thanks Tim, for sending this along!

Photo used under the following license.

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Corporation’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.