You may have heard the tale of how, in the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway bet ten dollars that he could write a complete story in just six words. He wrote: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” He won the bet and often referred to the story as his best work ever.
There are now dozens of websites devoted to six-word stories (just try Googling it). One of the best is from US online magazine Smith (now defunct, alas), which tweaked the rules by asking its readers to sum up their own lives in just six words.
The results are surprisingly poignant; often funny (“No more kisses, whisker burn lingers.”), sometimes sad (“Two sons. One died; now none.”), sometimes regretful (“Wishing I’d jumped sooner, missed mark.”), even a little scary (“He seemed ok at the time”). You should try it; we did.
As business copywriters, we’re always banging on about conciseness and short sentences. And while we don’t expect you to turn your firm’s client newsletters, your website or your marketing material into heart-wrenching six-word stories (wouldn’t that be fun, though!), it’s a reminder of just how emotional and powerful words can be, even just six of the little blighters.
So think of that, next time you’re trying to explain to your boss why your ten-word sentence is better than his 30-word jargon fest.