Want to communicate? Then simplify, simplify

With Antonio Carluccio, Glasthule, April 2015.

With Antonio Carluccio, Glasthule, April 2015.

Antonio Carluccio knows it. So did Joey Ramone. So did Ernest Hemingway, and Leonardo da Vinci and Frederic Chopin.

Simple is best. As Henry David Thoreau put it: “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify”.

If only it were that easy. Confronted with vast amounts of information every day the task of refining, digging to the core or even finding it, is not an easy one.

Unlike Thoreau most of us don’t have the option of going off-grid to a hut in the woods. We have to engage with the information avalanche. And having sorted through it we then have to utilise the useful bits.

I do more of this than most. I work in the communication industry. As a journalist I process large amounts of information every day, filtering it down and then re-communicating the key elements to readers.

Books have been written, theses published and academic careers built upon analysing this process – how best to sort through the mound of content and find the ‘news hook’, the golden thread of the new or the interesting. It’s a constant process – as the news cycle changes day to day so must I.

Joey Ramone, 1980 Pic: Yves Lorson

Joey Ramone, 1980
Pic: Yves Lorson

After a day of such work I recently had the pleasure of attending an event and meeting Italian restaurateur Antonio Carluccio. I can’t cook like the 78-year-old but I can apply his method to the communication field.

In his autobiography Carluccio explains the culinary theory he formulated in the early 1980s. Finding that the nouvelle cuisine of the time amounted to much extravagant kitchen technique Carluccio argued that simple dishes were best.

He called his theory ‘mof mof’ – minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour.

In content terms this translates to ‘less noise, more nub’. It’s a practice those mentioned above applied to their own respective disciplines, like Ramone’s ‘Hey! Ho! Let’s go‘ or Hemingway’s “one true sentence“.

Like those declarations ‘mof mof’ is far simpler in theory than in practice. It requires distillation, refinement and constant revision to get to the purest message possible – to cut through the fuss and find the flavour.

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2 thoughts on “Want to communicate? Then simplify, simplify

  1. Beth says:

    This idea needs to be taught in the business realm. People must process the identify the problems in simple terms and then focus on that. The endless emails and meetings that accomplish nothing could be eliminated! As far as literature I find I appreciate both the simple sentence and the long, descriptive narratives – when appropriate. Joyce shared with us Leopold Bloom’s one day with much fuss. Would the reader have truly grasped the mind of Bloom had Joyce practised an economy of words? Guess I like getting lost in words at times, just depends on what the character and landscape requires.

    • Thanks for the observations Beth. I couldn’t agree more in business terms – clarity, brevity and accuracy have never been more important, to my mind.

      Your Joyce example is interesting, not least because, as Sylvia Beach was publishing Ulysses in Paris Hemingway – then sculpting his iceberg theory – was himself a regular at her bookshop. Comparing Ulysses with most other literature is difficult, it’s a law unto itself in my opinion (breathtaking in parts, even at a century’s remove). That said, a short story like Hem’s Big Two-Hearted River encompasses a breath of character and emotion that for me equals Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, albeit in a much more declarative way. The wonderful thing is that I can walk to my bookshelf and take down both!

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