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Keep it Short and Simple (KISS Principle)

 

Techniques > Use of language > Persuasive language > Keep it Short and Simple (KISS Principle)

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Method

To persuade, use simple and clear language rather than complex erudition. Use words that people will easily understand. Keep sentences short and to the point. Use straightforward sentence construction. If speaking to a group, speak so the person least likely to understand is likely to understand.

Make key messages clear and repeat them, as often as needed without causing irritation. Use multiple channels of communication, but always keep the message the same. Teach other people to spread the same, simple message, giving them words and tools to do so.

Other notes for keeping things short and simple include:

  • Look at every word. Is it needed? If not, how can you remove it? Is there a simpler word you can use?
  • Look at every sentence. Is there a simpler, more memorable way to say it?
  • Consider using multi-sensory metaphors that tap more memory zones.
  • Test it on all kinds of other people (not just your friends).

Example

A marketer works to find a simple message for promoting toothpaste and comes up with 'For a cleaner, brighter, happier life'.

A politician who wants to reform both tax and local services, uses the message 'You pay less, we do more'.

A consultant writes detailed reports, but always with a straightforward executive summary that gets the key message across.

Discussion

Simple language is easy to understand, by design, which may make one wonder why people use complexity. Sometimes we feel that we need to use words and styles that we see others using, in order to fit in. Another reason is that we all want others to be impressed by us and admire our skills. So we use complex language as a way of showing how clever we are.

Complexity works in the right environment, for example in academic papers where sophisticated language is expected. It does not work when trying to communicate complex ideas to people who do not understand the jargon that we fall into with our peers.

Another reason to keep things short and simple is that it makes them easier to recall. If you want people to remember what you have told them at a later date, then it needs to have good write/read capability (like computers). Simplicity helps a lot with this, although making it memorable also may also be helped with careful other factors such as alliteration or rhyming.

'KISS' sometimes also means 'Keep It Simple, Stupid!'. While this has some shock value and hence may be remembered, it is not necessarily a persuasive framing. 'Keep It Short and Simple' is often a more acceptable format.

See also

Simplicity Principle

 

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