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The “C” is silent

Seth Godin recently wrote that the best question an editor can ask is, “what is this sentence supposed to do?” It leads us to consider whether the sentence is really necessary to our work.

That led me to thinking about the process of writing and, by extension, the process of communicating. Some of the best communicators I know — in any field — follow a simple process. Their products must be clear, concise, and compelling. That’s advice that almost any communications professional will offer. Do a quick Google search and see for yourself. You’ll find that almost everyone out there advises their clients to be clear, concise, and compelling in corporate reports, government submissions, policy papers — even in email!

Some go even further and offer advice on more “C” words:

  • Correct
  • Credible
  • Comprehensive
  • Consistent
  • Customer focused
  • Crisp
  • Current
  • Cordial

There’s an entire industry devoted to finding more Cs to add to their communications advice — and then looking for ways to charge you for it!

Here’s the reality, though, and I’ll offer it to you for free: none of it really matters if you’re so focused on following the advice that you lose your message in the process. Instead of worrying about all the “C” advice, start with something simpler: what is it you want to share? Can you explain your bottom line in three sentences or less? Can the person you’ve shared it with explain it accurately to someone else? Because until you can distill your message down to its most basic concept — down to first principles — then all the writing advice in the world will be useless.

Then, and only then, can you consider what your larger product should look like.

And yes, like everyone else, I’m going to tell you that your communication must be clear, concise and compelling.

But not today. We’ll talk about what the 3 Cs mean in future posts.

For now, start from the simplest of places: what is it you want to share? The rest will come.