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6 words tell the tale

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in Workplace Communication

This might be a myth, but if so, it’s a useful myth.

Over lunch at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, Ernest Hemingway bragged that he could write a compelling story in only six words. It would have a beginning, a middle and an ending. And it would sing.

His friends scoffed. They each bet $10 he couldn’t do it.

The writer who set the 20th century standard for spare prose wrote six words on a napkin:

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Each writer read the napkin and handed over the cash.

The lesson: Pay attention to the economy of your words. Brevity won’t limit their power.

—Adapted from “10 Works of Literature that Were Ridiculously Hard to Write,” Mark Juddery, Mental Floss.


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