Become a better communicator in two minutes.

The digital age has transformed work. But despite all the advances in software, hardware and connectivity, one skill underpins everything.

Writing.

According to the World Economic Forum, every day people send 294 billion emails, 500 million tweets, and 65 billion WhatsApp messages. More than 18 million texts are sent every minute. (One million of those are just “LOL” but you get the idea.)

Factor in online comments, reports, appraisals, and blogs, and it’s clear that writing has become more essential than ever. It is critical to digital literacy. And digital literacy is critical to seeking (and maintaining) employment.

So how can you become a better communicator in the three minutes it will take to read this? Here are three simple tips to improve your writing:

  1. Keep sentences between 10 and 20 words.
  2. Don’t use a long word when a short one will do.
  3. Re-read and edit everything you write.

A sentence that is longer than 20 words is like a boa constrictor. By the time you reach the end of it, you’re entangled and there’s nothing you can do.

Short words maintain clarity. Sure, there are times when ‘oxygen’ is better than ‘air’. Scrabble, for instance. But short words are more likely to get your point across.

Lastly, re-reading and editing will ensure that your message gets to the point, without detours. (Originally that sentence read “without detours or tangents,” but re-reading revealed tangents was redundant.)

You may be worried that using short words and sentences will make you sound less intelligent. The answer is no. Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address was just 701 words, and 505 of those are one syllable. (Some people say that nothing is carved in stone, but those 701 words were. You can see them today on the north wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.)

To really take your writing to the next level, look for a book called “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. It will take more than two minutes to read, but it is well worth it.