A communication lesson from Dr Seuss
Children’s books and poetry have a lot to teach us, as adult content marketers, about what works and what doesn’t.
Take Dr Seuss.
Challenged by his publisher to limit the vocabulary of The Cat in the Hat to only 225 words, Seuss eventually picked 223 words from a list of 348 Grade 1 target words, and added 13 simple words that were not on the list.
The flowing, rhyming prose was an immediate hit with his target audience — and has remained so since 1957 (with a rising total of 10 million copies printed to date).
What’s the lesson?
Children’s authors use simple words and short sentences when they write, because children have a more limited vocabulary than adults.
Writing in this fashion also helps kids to finish the story and to understand the message contained within.
Granted, adults understand more words than children. But our attention spans are super-short, especially when we’re online or reading off a screen.
Now this isn’t a licence to chuck out long-form content altogether. In fact, long-form content tends to be preferred by both people and search engines.
Go for CONCISE.
The happy middle ground is conciseness, not brevity. Try to express each point briefly enough to get readers hooked on your content, so that they read almost all of it, or all of it.
Here’s how to start
In an ideal world, everything we write would be short and tight. But this isn’t always possible. You may have a lot to say in a particular situation, and cutting it down would exclude important facts.
The top three characteristics of short, tight writing are:
- Shorter sentences (16–20 words, max) and good sentence length variety
- Short paragraphs (4–5 lines, max) and open space between
- Short sections of text, using bolding, headings, bullets, and numbered lists