Six word essays speak volumes

In today’s fast paced world, saying what you mean is more important than ever. Maybe that’s why the idea of the six-word essay keeps coming up in conversations. It’s a nice premise, but how much can you really achieve with six words?

Actually, six words can surprise you.

While very loosely tied to Ernest Hemingway, there’s a story that is still worth mentioning here for its content. As the story goes, the novelist was once challenged to write a six-word essay. He responded with, “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Whether or not the story is true, those six words are powerful, no matter who wrote them. What do they tell you? They tell me someone bought baby shoes expecting to have a baby, but sadly and regretfully, that never happened, so the brand new shoes are for sale.

From NPR to student contests, the challenge of communicating concisely is growing. And to be heard, you’ve got to make an impression with quick statements that maximize the value of the word count. Sort of like how a picture is worth a thousand words.

Advertising maximizes the use of words

Fragmented messages abound at ever turn today, and especially in social media avenues. But advertising campaigns have always used short, punchy messaging. In fact, you might call advertising the original social media, as ad campaigns have always been designed to move a social audience to take action.

At its core, advertising has always done more with less and customers have been digesting six-word (and even less) essays forever without realizing it. For example, “Where’s The Beef,” “Just Do It,” or “Fifteen Minutes Could Save You Fifteen Percent (Or More On Car Insurance),” are all very short, but memorable phrases. Or how about, “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” “Built Like A Mack Truck,” “All The News That’s Fit To Print,” or “The World Puts Its Stock In Us.” The list of highly effective advertising campaigns is long, and clearly the right words can really resonate with audiences.

Six words for the year ahead

At swb&r, in the spirit of the six-word essay concept, we asked our staff to share their hopes, dreams, goals and resolutions for 2014 in only six words. What we got was a wide range of aspirations for the year ahead, but also proof that six little words can be funny, informative, witty or motivational. Check out our staff essays in the accompanying photo gallery.

Test out the theory for yourself

Here’s a great experiment for you. Next time you’re driving by billboards at 65 mph, see if you can fully read and digest the messages. Chances are you might have to drive by a few times before the ads really sink in, but the billboards with the fewest words will likely have the greatest affect on you.

How much can you say in six words?

Join us on our Facebook page and share in the fun with your own six-word essay about your hopes and/or resolutions for 2014. Or post below in the comments – in six words or less.



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Ernie Thomas



Advertising is in Ernie’s DNA as he’s a third-generation family member to join the business his late grandfather founded. With that pedigree comes an almost six sense of identifying the “it factor” needed to create campaigns that spark customers to action. Ernie (or ET) uses his outgoing personality to connect with clients to build strong collaborative relationships. He digs deep to uncover new opportunities that will make a measurable difference for each client’s business. A graduate of Eastern University and Saint Joseph’s University (MBA), he has the book smarts and experience to elevate brand communications with strategies that challenge the status quo. He’s always guiding Team SWBR toward the correct target audiences, smartest campaign messages, right digital channels and best traditional tactics suited to boost sales.

When he’s not working, Ernie enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s also an avid golfer still searching for his first hole-in-one.