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“The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem of what to say and how to say it.”

That quote from Edward R. Murrow graces the overleaf of Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, a recent book by Lois Kelly which pronounced the old marketing model dead, and introduced us to what’s next.

One of the central themes of the book is that in this new digital world, where tech is king and paper is passé, it’s still all about the message.

With that in mind, Mr. Murrow’s quote is cited here to introduce a tool I invented during my days as a magazine editor to improve my own ability to say what had to be said, and to say it more effectively. It’s offered here to those who care about doing the same.

The tool is The 100-Word Challenge.

Its purpose is to help correct the tendencies we all have to over-use certain words and be lazy otherwise in our writing.

Here are the Rules:

  •  You must write a piece that is exactly 100 words long. It cannot be 99 words or 101 words.
  •  The piece must be in prose form. It can be styled as an essay, a short story, or a report; but it cannot be a poem.
  •  The piece must have a discernible beginning, middle and end.
  •  The piece must be grammatically correct, with whole sentences composed of the standard parts.
  •  The piece must be readable and it must make sense.
  •  No word may be used in the piece more than once — including such words as a, an, and, but, I, in, of, on, the, to, and you.

Whether the task at hand is a news release, a speech, text for a Website or a blog post, the basic job for anyone in the communications business is still to write, and the sharper the focus, the better the work.

The 100-Word Challenge helps build discipline and a sense of economy in writing.  Try it out – and let us know how you do.

Donna Dupuy
Donna Dupuy
Donna Dupuy is a marketing and PR consultant for professional practitioners, service providers, and progressive political entities.

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