“For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”
The legend goes that Ernest Hemingway wrote a novel that was just six words long in order to win a $10 bet. No more than six words and three uses of punctuation to display the power of language in all its finery.
So why, in the world of business and PR, don’t we take more inspiration from literary giants? Shakespeare, Roald Dahl, Tolkein, Dr Seuss: it’s not as if we’re short of them to choose from.
The explosion of communications activity seems paradoxically to have narrowed and limited the use of language. Modern corporate-speak can pollute and obscure authentic opinion and original thinking.
Take this from Rob Stone, CEO of Cornerstone: “As brands build out a world footprint, they look for the no-holds-barred global POV that’s always been part of our wheelhouse.”
Or Speedo rebranding their swimming caps as ‘hair management systems’.
Businesses forget how to talk to people outside their circle. Bland and bloated language blocks the opportunity for leaders to inspire and educate.
But now – with companies under pressure to address customers more directly – simple, interesting language is needed more than ever.
Being able to explain yourself, your thinking, your visions with words that millions of people will understand and enjoy is a neglected art.
Fresh words help us arrive at fresh ideas, for there is an intimate connection between thought and word. Effective use of words requires careful thinking and imagination.
Whatever your opinion of the matter, there’s no doubt about it: writing is an art form. Language constantly evolves and mutates, words go out of fashion and meanings are lost.
But good stories, cleverly told… are timeless.
And, as Hemingway so effortlessly proves, when you get it right, boy is it powerful.