Cut to the Bone

Antique typewriter with aged textured paper sheet. Sample text The End

If you love great documentaries, watch Ken Burns’ three-part series on Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was a complicated human who changed the landscape of American fiction. He was masterful at getting to the heart of a character or relationship through simple, unadorned writing. One of the film’s commentators compared earlier fiction to a film’s master shot. Hemingway went in for the close-up with his spare, personal prose. The reader feels as though they are inside the characters’ heads as expressed through their dialogue.

We often hear a version of “I’d like to speak more, but my vocabulary isn’t great” or “I struggle to find the right words.” This is especially prevalent for those whose first language is not English. Toss that idea aside. Opt for words that convey your message with clarity, as opposed to showy, complicated words and phrases. Simple language serves you better because it focuses your audience on your topic instead of the richness of your vocabulary.

Some of the best advice for speakers comes from Hemingway: “If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.” For your opens, go directly to the heart of the matter. And deliver any presentation with a Hemingway punch.

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