Write Like An Amazonian

Powerpoints are banned.

Write Like An Amazonian

Insight from First Principles

Jeff Bezos LOVES a “crisp” document.

Powerpoints are banned. Every meeting at Amazon starts with a silent reading of a detailed 6-page memo prepared by the meeting organizer.

Need to have a meeting? You need to have that document first. 

Want funding for a project? Better have a document ready.

If it’s not already obvious, writing is a important skill if you want to succeed at Amazon. 

So, how does a company that’s so serious about effective writing teach its employees to write?

Their rules can be summarized in four principles:

  1. Use less than 30 words per sentence: Eliminate “weasel words” and write simply (s/o Paul Graham). Ex. “Due to the fact,” should be, “because.”

  2. Replace adjectives and adverbs with data: Instead of “increased significantly,” say, “increased by 40%.”

  3. Use the “so what?” test: When editing, make sure there is a clear “why” for everything you’ve written. Why is it important for the reader to understand? What action is needed?

  4. Avoid jargon: Stay away from acronyms. Speak in clear, concise language that even a newcomer could understand.

Follow those guidelines, and you’ll finally be ready to send that email to Jeff Bezos.

(Let me know if you get through to him, I’ve been trying to pitch him on getting on the next Blue Origin mission)

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