Keep it simple – not stupid – The Hemingway

By Antoni

Ernest Hemingway, the literary giant of his time, sat in his favorite pub with some colleagues and talked over a beer. Hemingway claimed he could write an entire novel in just six words. There was betting around the table of ten dollars each. He raised his pen and thought for a moment before he went to work.

The tip of the pen was pressed into the paper and Hemingway wrote. He showed his text. It said:


The colleagues held out their ten dollar bills. They all agreed that he had succeeded in his purpose. A sad, fantastic story in just six words.

What do you think when you have to organize a conference or present yourself? Is it about getting as much time as possible to be able to fit in as much content as you can? Or do you choose to keep it short and to the point, thus creating an atmosphere for networking and reflection?

Very often we push in as much content as we can cram in. Preferably with PowerPoint slides filled with text and unreadable graphs. To lighten them up, we have a completely irrelevant image that confuses us even more.

And we are sometimes too rich for words. Preferably with abbreviations that not everyone understands, abstract words that cannot be interpreted, and buzzwords that have long since lost their meaning. If they had any at all.

We have much to learn from Hemingway. Dare to keep it simple. To have fewer messages. To be concrete.

We can certainly give examples, stories, metaphors, parables, memories, etc. As long as they are relevant and help us know and feel. The best lecturers can give us images and feelings. We see, hear, feel, taste, and smell what they describe. They fill us with joy, sadness, laughter, and anger. In the midst of this, we can still be relevant. We can provide the facts; numbers, statistics, quotes, formulas, and more. This strengthens the message.

My advice: Be relevant. Make it simple. Get interesting.

Team Antoni Explains

Imagine being in a cozy café, much like where the renowned writer Ernest Hemingway used to unwind. Hemingway was once challenged to craft an entire story using just six words. Taking a moment to contemplate, he penned the following:

  1. Baby shoes
  2. For sale
  3. Never worn

This brief yet powerful tale holds a valuable lesson for us in effectively conveying ideas, especially in team interactions and event planning.

Striving for Simplicity in Communication

When faced with organizing a conference or addressing our team, the temptation to convey as much information as possible can be strong. We might resort to jamming our slides with excessive text and complex charts, even incorporating unrelated visuals at times.

Learning from Hemingway’s Craft

Hemingway’s approach teaches us that brevity can be incredibly impactful. He demonstrated that even with just a few words, one can evoke strong emotions and resonate deeply. Instead of overwhelming our audience, we can aim to focus on a few key points and present them clearly.

Creating Connection through Relevance

While clarity is crucial, it’s equally vital to address topics that genuinely matter to our listeners. Drawing inspiration from Hemingway’s narrative, we can enrich our communication by incorporating relatable examples, stories, or analogies. These elements help build a bridge between our message and the audience’s experiences.

Strengthening with Supporting Facts

Simplicity doesn’t imply neglecting essential information. Just like Hemingway’s story carried a profound meaning, we can enhance our communication by weaving in supporting facts—statistics, quotes, or data—that bolster our arguments and enhance credibility.

Practical Steps Forward

So, what actions can we take from here? Whether conversing with colleagues or presenting at an event, let’s keep simplicity and clarity in mind. We can craft narratives enriched with pertinent stories and examples, enabling listeners to connect on a deeper level. Furthermore, integrating key facts will lend weight to our messages.

Conclusion: A Short Tale, Enduring Lessons

Hemingway’s masterful six-word story demonstrates the potency of conciseness. We can incorporate this insight into our own communication endeavors. By embracing simplicity, weaving relatable content, and grounding our ideas in credible facts, we can transform our messages into memorable and impactful interactions. Let’s take inspiration from the “Hemingway” and elevate the effectiveness of our communication.

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