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Kill Your Darlings, They’re Just Words

TL;DR: Smart Brevity: a book review

November 16, 2022

Written by Lee Way Lin | Graphics by Yusak Prahadi

Smart Brevity is a nifty tutorial to help you trim the fat and focus on the real essence of your text. It’s a book to make yourself clear in a foggy climate. 


After founding the political newsletter Politico, Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz discovered that 80% of its audience read less than 500 of the 1600 words they wrote for each article. 

Opting to produce 200-word articles which were “short, not shallow” on a premium subscription called Politico Pro, the founders hit the big time. Fortune 500 companies loved the service, with some of them spending over $100,000 a year to use the service.

A product of its own genius 

The text Smart Brevity is a product of itself. It concisely illustrates how the company’s technology transforms prosaic slogs into crisp, informative hooks that either invite readers to venture deeper into the story, or let them leave, having learnt enough about the subject.

Using simple tips and tricks, the authors explore what counts as necessary writing and the perks of being brief. To this end, their intention is clearly signposted; big bold fonts cry “ONE BIG THING”, “GO DEEPER” or “WHY IT MATTERS” act as headlines and elements the reader should use in their own writing. 

What are your stakes? 

Communication is the name of the game in content marketing. Smart Brevity proves particularly useful in helping text deliver this message.  

Regardless of placement, the central mechanism of marketing is, put simply, purpose. 

The moment we hook our audience with a sense of purpose, a precious connection is made. Purpose is what grounds attention. 

Writing then should be less self-serving and acclimate to the times where stimuli is snappy, fluid, and most importantly, relentless and abundant. And as I write this I know full well I’m very guilty of this offence. So I’ll round out now with the advice I’ve been given: 

ONE BIG THING: Nobody cares what you mean beyond your first paragraph. 

WHY IT MATTERS: Each time your audience snoozes, you lose…money, probably. 

GO DEEPER: Buy the book and speak clearer on paper.

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Click2View is Southeast Asia’s premiere full-service independent B2B content marketing agency servicing clients like Microsoft, Google, Visa, Prudential, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.