Book Recommendation: MicroStyle: The Art of Writing Little

I literally just put down my iPad, from which I read the book, Microstyle: the Art of Writing Little by Christopher Johnson. I read many books on communication, and it has been a long time since I read anything really new about how we get our ideas across, what resonates with people overall and how we can ensure our message is not only remembered but shared.

Microstyle is entertaining and enlightening. The opening line to the introduction is intriguing: “This is the age of the Incredible Shrinking Message.” Yes. He goes on to explain how we go to this point of “miniature messages” (and you can’t blame it all on Twitter, though it may have speeded up the process a bit).

I don’t want to spoil the book for you (because I am recommending you read it), but here are some nuggets that caught my eye:

  •  “Micromessages often feature the formal traits of poetry: rhyme, alliteration, assonance, structural parallelism.”
  • “So, how do you pack a lot of meaning into a little message? You don’t. . . A message isn’t a treasure chest full of meaning. It’s more like a key that opens doors.”
  • “Clarity  means finding the right level of detail for the circumstances.”
  • “The main function of a brand name…is to add conceptual and emotional depth to people’s ideas about a product, company, or service.”
  • “Baldly descriptive names are like a trip to the grocery store: they’re short, and you don’t see anything very interesting along the way. Suggestive names, on the other hand, lead you through exciting mental territory…”
  • “We don’t live ideas, we live situations. So, insert your reader into a situation.”
  • “What makes a micromessage successful is often the same thing that makes a comment stand out in a conversation: unusual perspicacity or wit.”
  • “Voice is what the recipient of your message infers about you solely from your communicative choices.”

These statements are taken entirely out of context. This is another reason to pick up the book. But, you get a flavor for what Johnson seems to be saying: Challenge “Big Style” and make your own style. It will determine much about you.

 

Book Recommendation for Storytellers: Transformational Speaking

If you have embraced the power of storytelling — whether for business, a nonprofit or your own career — consider reading this book: Transformational Speaking: If You Want to Change the World, Tell a Better Story, by Gail Larsen. Formerly with the National Speakers Bureau, Larsen walks the reader through the art of telling a unique, authentic story from how to find that story to how to deliver it.

She states “There are two kinds of memorable speakers. There are those who impress us with their delivery and style and cause us to say, ‘He was a great speaker!’ – then return to our lives and work unchanged. . . Then there are those who arouse us on an inner level, awakening us to what we care about and prompting serious inquiry about the changes we’re committed to making. That’s transformational speaking.”

If you want the world to understand you, your organization, your cause, your products or services, at some point you will be called to speak. More than having a well crafted elevator pitch, you must learn to tell your story in such a way that ignites the other person to action.

This book isn’t about learning a new technique. Rather, as she says in the book, “Great speaking is less about being “fixed” than being found. When you come home to yourself and discover your best material and unique way of communicating, you’ll find there’s nothing broken.”