With Every Word, I Drop Knowledge

Hamilton’s theatrical debut on Disney Plus reportedly has been a boon for the company, with live productions halted everywhere and socially distanced audiences hungry for quality content. But the hip-hop tale also offers some valuable lessons for communicators.

The streaming democratization of the birth story of American democracy has led to a broader audience—and broader critiques—of the musical. But admirers and critics alike can agree on the magic and mastery of creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s poetry.

Miranda reveals that part of his secret sauce as he wrote the signature song “My Shot” was the constant quest for the “densest couplets.”

“If I express something in four lines, the challenge became: Can I express that now in two lines?” Miranda explains. “It was sort of like this constant dare with myself to compress it and compress and compress and compress, until you could kick the tire on any part of the line and it’s unfuckwithable.”

Pardon his French, but we couldn’t agree more that brevity is key to good writing, whether it’s in a Broadway musical or a business memo. Or, as other great writers have put it:

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”— Truman Capote

“I like density, not volume.” Maureen Howard

“There is but one art, to omit.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

“If I’d had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.” — Mark Twain