Guest Post – “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Why the six word novel should inspire our communication

HemmingwayHere’s a great guest post that was shared with me by Jonathan Boddy. As a master of Simplicity I love this approach to communication because the simpler we can communicate the more understanding our teams will have and this will help us achieve much greater results. Understanding increases confidence and confidence is key to success.



“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Why the six word novel should inspire our communication













There is a literary legend around Ernest Hemingway that I heard for the first time the other day. The story goes that Hemingway and a number of his literary friends were at a long and, quite probably, liquid lunch. The talk turned to the fashion of the day, flash fiction, stories written in as few words as possible.

Hemingway made a $10 wager with each of his fellow diners that he could craft a complete story in six words. All agreed to the wager and the money was laid on the table. Hemingway then wrote on a paper napkin, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Why is this relevant to our communications? Reflecting on the story I thought the principle of offering the maximum amount of information in as few words as possible, whilst retaining the essential detail, evoking atmosphere and creating impact is a skill.

Being able to communicate in any medium with clarity, brevity and impact takes practice. News journalists tend to be good at cutting through peripheral content to draw out the essential elements of a story. Good communicators in PR recognise that when creating content for the media, either in a written or verbal form every word has to earn it’s place. They understand that there is limited space and time to tell their story and to get their information to the audience.

In wider business communications, with which we all engage, we seek to create influence with an audience and shape their decision making or attitudes. Recognising that the audience has limited time should encourage us all to ensure we test our communications; is all the relevant content there in an accessible form, is there sufficient supporting evidence, has the content used the language that will have the desired impact on the audience? Then cut away anything that is superfluous.

Hemingway won his bet.

Jonathons’ BIO

Jonathan is Director at Positive Impact Communications & Training Limited and a media communications consultant to numerous organisations. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations he is a vastly experienced public relations professional having worked in the specific fields of Media, Presentation and Crisis Communication consultancy and training for over 20 years. Jonathan’s work covers communications around many of the aspects of business life – from the launch of new companies and products to managing communications around closure and redundancy. His clients include organisations from public, private and charity / voluntary sectors. The training that he provides is tailored to help people to communicate effectively whatever the circumstances.


If you want to know how to increase simplicity call +1 561 500 0888 and one of our team will be happy to arrange a free 30 minute strategy session.