Keep it Short


They say brevity is the soul of wit. Austin Frakt says it’s also the soul of persuasion. To prove it, he points us to Tim Harford, who summarizes an experiment in which various versions of a letter were sent to people who might qualify for a refund on a product they bought:

[Four] tweaks had substantial effects: first, cutting a paragraph of waffle that had helped to bury the message about the refund; second, pointing out that a five-minute phone call would suffice to make a claim; third, sending a follow-up letter. And twice as large as any of these effects was adding a couple of bullet points in bold at the top with the key message: you may deserve a refund; if so, call us.

Of course, we already knew this, right? It’s why journal abstracts exist. It’s why blogs exist. It’s why haiku exists. Come on! We’re busy people around here.

On the other hand, it doesn’t explain the appeal of those endless, rambling, conspiracy theory laden letters that people like Glenn Beck and Ron Paul send out. What’s the deal with those, anyway?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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