Getting to the Point in PR: The Hemingway Test

Learning to write succinctly is an important skill in public relations, particularly in the public affairs space. As any undergraduate course in English would teach you, using fewer, more carefully selected words will help you to make your points clear and concise.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote in a 1945 letter: “It wasn’t by accident that the Gettysburg Address was so short. The laws of prose writing are immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics.”

The Gettysburg Address stands at 273 words. To put that into perspective, a Letter to the Editor is traditionally under 200 words. Nevertheless, the gravity of that November 1863 speech has reverberated through history.

Now, it is true that not every piece of writing will bear the same significance as the Gettysburg Address. However, there are a few key takeaways that we can employ in our work:

  1. Good writing in public relations is about the quality, not the quantity, of words. Get your point in quickly and make it well.
  2. As President Lincoln was certainly aware – writing in a politically contentious environment requires extra care and precision. Be sure to evaluate the connotation of your words.
  3. Be sure to put your message into every sentence. Make sure that even a superficial reading leaves the reader with an idea of what you are talking about. Make an impression.

By applying these Hemingway-inspired principles of writing, public relations and public affairs messaging can become more effective and meaningful for the reader.


Related Posts

Leave a Reply