Saturday, June 25, 2011

The lost art of the edit - An ode to the Send button

The way we communicate in the written form is evolving at a rapid rate – becoming more frequent, more bite sized, channels to communicate becoming more ubiquitous. We have more things to say and more ways to say it. And the way we say it is changing.

Mobile Instant Messaging is a big part of this growth - on track to triple in use in five years. Traditional SMS, while some say is declining, is still achieving 8.7% growth in the second half of 2010. BlackBerry’s popular messaging service – BBM now has competition with a wave of new alternatives for other devices, WhatsApp, and soon to be launched iMessage for Apple. WSJ also hint Google are in the works to introduce their flavor in mobile messaging.

Social services, now so integrated into our daily digital dosage, are also altering behavior. In only five years, Twitter has taught us, all that is important can be summed up in 140 characters. Google Wave, while perhaps ahead of its time and poorly positioned, wanted us to ‘communicate and collaborate in realtime’. Facebook updated their messaging service, declaring ‘we want to make this more like a conversation’, removing subject lines and enabling users to remove the Send button all together.

And yet amongst all this, Email still remains the dominant form of communication in business.

In a study into the ways we work, Email reigns supreme, with 78% increase in communication usage since 2005, outstripping IM (64%), Social Media (61%) and Texting (58%).

It’s the first thing I check when I wake, the last thing I check before I sleep. It’s how we share information within groups, present results, check in with colleagues – in and out of the office – approve work with our clients. It’s integral to our daily job. But as the world around us changes, ‘how’ we email is evolving. And with it, the lost art of the edit.

Which brings me to the Send button.

With it, we are granted the same luxury an author is afforded before publishing a book. The same opportunity a Copywriter is provided in the forming of an advertising message. The ability to edit. Refine. Focus. Time to define what needs to be communicated, and time to craft the most effective way to communicate it. In a business of negotiation, salesmanship, conviction – these words can carry a lot of weight, a lot of opportunity to change. But it’s an opportunity that’s gradually being wasted, as workers inherent their ‘instant messaging’ ways – one-take, unedited streams of thought. Sentences and paragraphs that lack structure. Lack purpose and conviction.

Scott Berkun filmed this wonderful timelapse piece on ‘how to write 1000 words’. It demonstrates the number of edits, rewrites and rearrangements involved in reaching that finished piece. Each time, improving on and refining the message being communicated. We don’t get this opportunity when we speak. We shouldn’t waste it when we write.

It was David Ogilvy, the father of advertising himself famously said “make every word count”. It’s how we should approach the written form, and make it count before we hit Send.


Unknown said...

Nice article and such a good information. Thanks for your excellent posting. I really enjoyed reading this blog.

Unknown said...

As one of the many quaintly anachronistic newspaper journalists, I appreciate this post. It's even more relevant today than the day it was written. Thanks again.