How to Keep It Simple and Concise

Written by: Julie Cohn / Communication / January 2019

How To Keep It Simple and Concise

Many of my clients list being more concise as one of their highest priority goals.  

The famous acronym, “Keep it Simple, Stupid (or KISS)” may need an update – “Keep it Simple (KIS)” is both kinder and more concise!  As a bonus:  It still sounds like “kiss”!

There are a variety of reasons one may have difficulty being concise.  English language learners may have limited vocabularies in English but wish to convey a complex idea, and so tend to circumlocute (or “talk around”) the word using several words to convey their message.  Others may experience word finding difficulty due to aging, stroke, or traumatic brain injury.  

Yet others may experience difficulty formulating their thoughts, such that it is difficult to plan a direct route from their first word to the end of their thought.  Formulation difficulties may happen for a variety of reasons.  People with a history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, traumatic brain injury, or stroke may have attention and/or memory difficulties which may also impact upon their ability to speak or write concisely.  

There are also cultural differences which may impact upon conciseness; for example, in many Eastern European cultures, truthfulness is a strong value.  The desire to make sure every detail has been shared, in order to be sincere and forthcoming, may add pressure to give detailed information.  

Some people are simply naturally more wordy or tangential than others. 


One strategy for improving conciseness is to form a draft, keeping it simple; avoiding becoming bogged down by the desire to use a formal tone.

Perhaps you’d like to email your supervisor something like:  “I would appreciate the opportunity to present at our next meeting.  I would like to demonstrate my commitment to excellence with a view to increased responsibility in my future with our firm.”

It may be easier to first state your thoughts as simply as possible:  “I want to give the next presentation because I’m looking for a promotion and it would be a good chance to show I can do complex work.”

Once you’ve written down the simple version, take time to edit or ask a friend to help make the tone more professional.  Focusing on stating the message simply allows you to express your thoughts without the added burden of formality.  Once the simple version is written down, it is easier to consider how to create a more professional tone without adding unnecessary words or phrases.   

At Well Said, our Speech-Language Pathologists can help you determine if you would benefit from being more concise; figure out what aspects of your language could improve conciseness (e.g. word finding, formulation, memory, vocabulary development); and help you practice with exercises tailored to your daily work, school, and/or home communication needs.

In the spirit of being concise, I’ll Keep It Simple, and see you at Well Said!