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Smart Brevity is changing the way I communicate. Here’s how.

If you’re tired of your emails going unread, try the ideas in the book Smart Brevity. A few weeks ago, my friend Stephanie recommended the book Smart Brevity to me. I used the philosophies in it to reinvent my newsletter this past week. I’ve started thinking through every communication from the standpoint of Smart Brevity.

Here is a brief a summary of the book and some of my thoughts on how I’m changing my communication.


We communicate without paying much attention to what the audience needs to know and how the audience wants to receive what we are communicating. Smart Brevity is about:

  1. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 putting your audience first and

  2. 🗣️communicating clearly and succinctly.

The title, Smart Brevity, summarizes the two parts of the model. 🔥 Summarize the most important information (smart) up front in an easy-to-understand, concise way (brevity).

My first critique of the book may be due to the fact I read on Kindle. The graphics and layout didn’t add to my understanding of the content. Using graphics to communicate is a key idea of Smart Brevity, and in Kindle format they failed.

My second critique of the book is that it could have been shorter. This is a book that is already short and would have been best as a blog post or article series. The content became repetitive in a way that was confusing rather than reinforcing.

Why Should I Care?

There is a lot of data in the book. Most of the data is publicly available, so it wasn’t just representative of the authors’ perspective. Here were three facts that caught my attention:

  • “Roughly one-third of work emails that require attention go unread.”

  • “…50 to 60 percent of the average employee’s time is spent on communication of some sort”

  • “The Project Management Institute found that 30 percent of project failures stemmed from crappy communications.”

These, along with all the other facts in the book, helped me see that I need to change the way I communicate with others to be more effective.

How I’ve Been Using It

I’m an academic writer who loves words, so brevity is not natural to me. I’ve been focusing on the following as I’ve been using the concepts of Smart Brevity in my writing:

  1. Clarify what I want the reader to know. Communicate that first. (The summary above)

  2. Tell the reader why I think it matters. (The why should I care section above)

  3. Give more information for people to dig into if they choose. (This section)

  4. Use short, simple sentences with simple, powerful words. (All)

  5. Use bullets, white space, and emojis to communicate clearly and build attention (All)

Using Smart Brevity in speaking off the cuff is a lot harder for me. I have to slow down and think about what I want to say a bit more before I say it. I know this would be beneficial. It’s just hard, and so that’s an area that I can’t yet show any real results in.

What are your favorite communication tips for communicating a message in a way that people will listen and even want to learn from you?


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