The soul of wit

The story goes like this: a group of writers are lunching together somewhere in New York City. They're discussing the art of writing, as they often do, and one of them proposes a bet: he says he can write a story, right here, at the table, with a complete narrative arc, using only 6 words.  If he succeeds, each of his fellow writers owe him $10.  They take the bet, and the man who proposed it draws his pen from his pocket and reaches for a napkin.  A few moments later, he passes the napkin around the table so his companions can read what he's written:

"For sale: baby shoes. Never worn."

After the napkin completes its circuit of the table, Ernest Hemingway puts his pen back in his pocket, and collects his winnings.

Did it really happen?  Some say it did.  Some say it did, but it was dinner, not lunch.  Some say it did, but it was Chicago, not New York.  Some say it didn't happen at all.  All of them are missing the point.

A story doesn't have to be true to be a true story.

Whether real or apocryphal, this story isn't just an affectionate nod toward Hemingway's writing style -- it teaches the value of brevity in your communications and the importance of setting alight the imaginations of your audiences.  Why were the shoes never worn?  You tell me.  Who's selling them?  You tell me.  Why are they selling them, and why now?  You tell me.  Deliver a story like this, distilled into its crystalline essence, and your impact will be felt long after you've left the room.

Pare down your thoughts.  Make each word matter.  Make every phrase memorable, because over good communicators and bad, the sun also rises -- and your audiences will remember which one you are.