Many years ago, I was part of a consulting firm with a mean, curmudgeonly owner. I wasn’t a fan of his. He wasn’t a fan of my writing.

So, he decided to teach me how to write. For a period of six months he made me write all of his reports, speeches, articles – and RFP’s.

What I learned about writing is this:

1. A sentence only contains one thought.
2. The best sentences are eight words or less.

Yup, eight words. That’s it.

Here’s what I discovered about my writing.

Up until then I had been using long, run-on sentences to cover up for lack of understanding, accommodate disjointed facts, cover-up different points of view just in case I was wrong – and generally try to sound way more informed and smarter than I really was without ever realizing that by writing these long horrible sentences I wasn’t just confusing the reader I was confusing myself (wordcount: 65).

Writing in eight words or less forced me think. Thinking made me clearer. Being clear helped me get better organized. Being better organized resulted in shorter, easier to understand RFP responses. Easy-to-understand responses lead to more RFP wins.

I have shared this writing tip with hundreds of business people. Years later I have heard from many of them. They tell me this is a tip they have never forgotten. They tell me ‘this tip changed their writing forever’.

That’s cool.