Cut the Bull - A “Smart Brevity” Book Review - Herd and Homestead

Cut the Bull - A “Smart Brevity” Book Review

We consume information quickly; Smart Brevity teaches us to respect that.

By The Numbers:

Herd & Homestead Rating

    8 / 10

    How much does Smart Brevity cost


      How many pages is Smart Brevity

        218 Pages

        How long to read Smart Brevity

          2 Hours

          Where can you get Smart Brevity


            Why it matters:

            Smart Brevity is a productive communication handbook written by the co-creators of Axios and Politico: Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz.
            • The premise is that communication has changed rapidly, and we ingest information in quick bite-sized chunks.
            • The book works as a quick reference guide for things such as emails, meetings, speeches, presentations, and social media.
            • It pushes the boundaries of modern communication and shows us how to become more productive by saying less and doing more.

            A quick look:

            Smart Brevity excels in its ability to take examples of “poor” writing and re-work it into the “Smart Brevity Style” of writing. It also provides excellent examples of “Smart Brevity” working in the real world. I’ve listed a few below:

            • The President’s Daily Brief was a daily newsletter written by Philip Dufresne, current Axios writer, for the CIA during the Trump Administration. This sharp report showed the important information for the President’s daily intelligence briefings.
            • Smart Brevity pulls no punches when talking about how we get our information. It harps on any communication’s ability to “capture eye skimmers”; that most of us only quickly scan most things. Smart Brevity writing tries to push all relevant information to where our eyes will skim.
            • I also really liked their meeting breakdown and tips. Many of us spend too much time in meetings and we can take a proactive approach by making some changes to how we run meetings. Smart Brevity had some amazing tips that I’ve listed below:
              • Shorten meeting times from the “standard” 30 minutes.
              • Create a specific objective and agenda shared at least a day before.
              • Always let people know why the meeting matters right at the beginning.
              • Set what specific decisions need to be made.
              • Assign ownership to follow up tasks and decisions.
              • Summarize takeaways and next steps before ending the meeting.
              • Send a follow up email after the fact on decisions made and follow up items.

            Where’s the rub:

            Smart Brevity takes its precision seriously, but some messages fall flat. They also spend too much time on topics that do not cater to their general audience.

            • Newsletters are a huge source of information and a great way to share information. However, most of us will never run a newsletter. They continuously reference the idea of newsletters being the pinnacle of all communication and that just falls flat with general people looking to be productive.
            • There is an entire section about using emojis, which feels inappropriate for formal or professional writing even today. The only thing that I agree with them on emojis is that it can make an email stand out and I think lends itself well to a “branding symbol” on recurring emails.

            Bottom line:

            Smart Brevity was a great read and I recommend it to anyone trying to become more productive. We spend most of our lives creating or reading communications, which makes it critical that we do less and say more every time we communicate. Smart Brevity gives us a road map to do exactly that.

            Go deeper:

            Smart Brevity was a fantastic read, and you can pick it up on Amazon here. If you want more information on productivity, check out some of our other articles suggested below.

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