What was one of the secrets of Winston Churchill’s incredible ability to communicate and motivate?
It’s not what we think.
“Short words are best,” said Sir Winston.
“The shorter words of a language are usually the more ancient,” Winston is quoted as saying in The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo. “Their meaning is more ingrained in the national character and they appeal to greater force.”
The manuscripts of Winston’s speeches show crossed-out longer words replaced with short ones. “Liberated” became “freed.”
Take note of Winston’s famous observation about the British fighter pilots and bomber crews to establish air superiority over England against Hitler: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”
“In six words, Churchill told the entire story of British courage and what it meant to the rest of the world: so much, so many, so few,” Carmine observes. “Those six words summarize stories that fill entire books.”
Note also: only four words in Winston’s sentence are more than one syllable.
“While trying to look intelligent, a lot of people do things that make them look dumb,” says Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger.
We use big words in an effort to impress.
“The exact opposite is true,” writes Carmine. “If you want to sound smart and confident, replace big words with small ones. Big words don’t impress people; big words frustrate people.”
Remember: Short words are best.
Reflection: What can I learn from Winston’s suggestion about using short words?
Action: Experiment with intentionally using short words in an upcoming talk or presentation.