Clarity is hard.
I know – I’ve tried and failed. Pair brevity with clarity and it’s even harder – twice as hard.
But if you want to be successful in almost anything that requires communication – any business, any marketing, any resume – you need to master clarity. And when you combine it with brevity and a pinch of originality, you’ll be able to successfully communicate your message.
I was reminded of this today when I visited an education software company’s website today, and was confronted with this paragraph on the home page:
SUNGARD Pentamation is an application software and information processing services company whose sole focus is to provide administrative information systems, performance analysis and reporting software solutions to the K-12 and Local Government markets throughout the United States. We at SUNGARD Pentamation are proud of our products, services and commitment to the markets we serve. We invite and encourage you to thoroughly explore our Web site in order to gain an insight as to who we are …
What the heck do they actually do?
I’ll tell you, I spent a few minutes wondering. But that’s only because I’m doing some research on software companies in education. If I was actually an educator looking for a software package, I’d be gone in 15 seconds.
I don’t want to thoroughly explore your website to get an insight into who you are … just tell me! In a sentence! That doesn’t include the word solution!
I’ve come to believe that the word solution is code for “I don’t really know what on earth we actually do either. But we help people with, um, problems, and, like, kind of fix them or something like that. So we provide solutions!”
If you can’t explain what you do simply and clearly in a few short words, one or more of the following are true:
- you don’t actually know
- you have no clear focus
- you really aren’t sure why clients pay you money because you don’t really know what problems your “solutions” solve
- you haven’t thought long and hard enough about it yet
Contrast the above essay-in-a-paragraph with how 37Signals presents itself:
Simple software to help you get organized.
There you have it. They build and sell software. It’s software that helps you get organized. And it’s simple.
That’s clear, brief, and even refreshingly original.
A winning formula for successful communication: Clarity. Brevity. Originality.
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