Short and Sweet

When does precision become so complicated that the fundamental idea is lost?  The point is important when trying to communicate a proposed course of action and perhaps to clarify a past course of action.  Completeness and complexity often defeat the purpose.  Confusion destroys the will to act.

Einstein once said if you cannot explain it to a six-year-old then you probably don’t understand it yourself.  How many financial plans can be explained to a six-year-old?  Probably, not many. Maybe that is okay, but you should be able to explain the gist of it to an adult in what, two minutes.  Maybe three.

Making the explanation short is hard work.  Writing or speaking short thoughts is much more difficult than long.  But, it is well worth the trouble.  Communication needs to be short to be both heard and understood.

For example.  The Canadian and American national anthems are both less than 100 words.  So is the Lord’s Prayer.  The Gettysburg Address is less than 300 words.  Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and the American Bill of Rights are both less than 1,600 words.

People speak about 150 words per minutes.  Is there an overview of the plan that you can present in less than 10 minutes, and that will convey the message and call the people to act?  There should be.  Better still, less than 5 minutes.

For a comparison to completeness and complexity that confuses more than enlightens, the American Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is 381,517 words and if you include regulations up to early October 2013, it is 11,588,500 words.  Probably completely incomprehensible with hidden conflicts and unforeseen consequences.

Try to communicate plans more effectively.  You can have the complexity inherent in the plan, but the client needs to see the what, not necessarily the how.

Precis writing was an important element of high school English.  It is a skill you might want to dust off and use more often.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.  |  Twitter @DonShaughnessy  |  Follow by email at moneyFYI

2 Comments on “Short and Sweet

  1. Please forward this to all politicians and preachers. Why is it they think they’re getting paid by the word!

    • Words are their stock in trade. By using more they think they have accomplished more. Our fault for letting them misunderstand the measuring system.

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