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What are you trying to Say?

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  • 2017 College Interns
  • 2017 College Interns
  • So, what is it that you are trying to say?

    Throughout high school and college, we have always had a minimum number of pages, or a time limit, that our papers and presentations had to exceed in order to be considered adequate. Situations like this always forced students to push the limits of what they could get away with, like extending the margins on a paper, increasing the line spacing to 2.1 instead of 2, and filling presentations with extra information to increase the time. Although this seems to be designed to ensure that students say everything that they need to stay, it tends to create boring messages that don’t efficiently convey their motives.

    Something that isn’t taught in high school is that shorter, is usually better. If you can get your message out in one page instead of five, it is much more likely that your reader will absorb the information. Just think about being in the reader’s shoes. Sometimes you read papers about things that you really enjoy. In this situation, you probably wouldn’t mind it being a bit longer, because is it something that excites you, and you want to know all of the details. However, most of the time you are trying to convey a message or argue a point to an audience. In this case, they may not be particularly interested, and you job is to get them interested. A long message is going to bore your audience quickly, and will probably cause them to skim or zone out and miss important information. So, keep your message brief and interesting while supporting your argument.

    Despite what you may be thinking, “Awesome! Shorter is better? Now I don’t have to spend all of my time writing these long papers and presentations,” this does not necessarily mean less preparation time, and usually requires the opposite. First, take all of the knowledge you have on the topic and put it into that long, boring paper that you understand, but nobody else wants to read. If you're making a presentation, read through it, put your main points from each section onto a slide, and practice, practice, practice. In the case of a paper or article, write it again, but do it in half the time, and continue until you have significantly decreased the length. Now more than ever, it is crucial that you have an excellent understanding of the material in order for you to understand what qualifies as important.

    Keeping an audience interested and involved is a skill that takes practice and experience. Although education has seemed to steer us in the direction that more is better, writing and presenting a message that is concise and effective is a skill that will greatly increase the impact you have on others in the workplace and in life.