Are You Too Wordy?

“Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Are You Too Wordy?

By Loren Ekroth

One of the biggest dislikes about conversationalists is that they ramble, don’t get to the point, and dominate by going on and on. They can’t seem to say anything without using lots of words.

The ability to be brief will serve you well. How?

  1. You’ll be admired for your care with language.
  2. You’ll be able to talk effectively when you have minimal time, especially if you are on radio or TV, but also in meetings.
  3. Listeners will better remember what you say.
  4. You won’t steal the “air time” of other conversers.

Here’s what some very smart people had to say about being brief:

“Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy gave one of the shortest inaugural addresses in U.S. history, yet it is one of the longest remembered. The Gettysburg Address required only a few minutes. During the height of World War II, Churchill said to the Luftwaffe, “Do your worst, we will do our best!” Memorable ideas and powerful directions are succinct, pithy, and relevant. How do you want people to think of and remember you?”
— Alan Weiss, professional speaker, consultant

“To use many words to communicate few thoughts is everywhere the unmistakable sign of mediocrity. To gather much thought into few words stamps the man of genius.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher

“Be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”
— Robert Southey, English poet, 1774-1873

To express yourself succinctly, wrote Mark Twain, is to speak with “a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.” He also wrote, “I’d have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.”

Here are some ways you can develop your ability to be brief.

  1. Read a short magazine article or newspaper column of 500-1000 words and try to express the gist of it in less than 50 words.
  2. Look for exemplars of this ability in your place of worship, workplace, or club. See what they do, then do likewise.
  3. Read short poetry, especially haiku. “Feel” what can be done with few words.
  4. Join a Toastmasters club. (Find one in your area at
  5. Practice in everyday life. Slow down a bit, breathe more often, say fewer words.

Take to heart the profound words of the Bard:

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” — Shakespeare, Hamlet.

From “Better Conversations” newsletter by Loren Ekroth. Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2011. All Rights reserved. Dr. Ekroth is creator of information products to improve conversation, such as “Small Talk Success Tips” and a free newsletter at

Coaching Call To Action

As you attend meetings this week, notice the impact people have through their communication style. What works better in your business setting – more words or fewer words? Do your observations support Loren’s hypothesis or not?