It takes practice to communicate well. Being a great writer or communicator is a kind of superpower that makes nearly every aspect of your life easier. But with great power comes great responsibility; the clarifying power of language can also be used to confound.

I am worried about the escalation of document length I have observed recently. Simple questions receive lengthy responses. People blow past guidelines on document lengths. Paragraphs have five sentences when they could have one. Sentences have fifty words when they could have five. I appreciate rigor but this is something else entirely.

I have tackled this phenomenon before as it relates to the use of corporate speak when breaking bad news. But there are more common techniques that make it costly for the audience to engage; they are too long, contain too much jargon, and are formulaic or repetitive.

Writing of this form usually comes from a place of good intention. Our desire to maintain harmony can cause us to be indirect about uncomfortable truths. Our desire to influence can cause us to pre-emptively address every arcane objection. Our desire to impress can cause us to use more language than necessary. And the expectations we have internalized about corporate communication often cause us to write in a way we never would to our friends.

When I was working on ads one of the values we developed for our leadership team was to Be Plainspoken. That means communicating in an unadorned manner. It means having the conviction to be honest with one another so we can all improve. It means being direct not out of cruelty but out of an abundance of kindness.

I think we should all aspire to be plainspoken.