The maximum number of words on a slide is zero.

A recent question on twitter to me was, “What is the maximum number of words you can put on a slide?”

Easy, the maximum number is zero!

Seriously, asking the question shows that the purpose of your supportive media (p2) is for people to read, rather than to listen to your story (p1). I appreciate this sounds draconian but the reality is all too often an excuse to simply list facts; provide a script; something to read; something to distract the audience; something they can find their way back with or just because you don’t know any better. Words are for reading.

There are loads of people cleverer andmore famous than me who have argued for fewer and fewer words for more and more reasons. My question is why have any words at all? The best slide in the world doesn’t have any words on it.

Is there something that you are unable to say that requires annotation? Is there something so complex that words will assist in explaining? Is data so tight that graphical representation will explain it? Or do you just feel “you have to write”? If we say six, then seven to ten will creep in quickly. If we have ten then why not fifteen? If we have fifteen then why not simply write the document and post it?

The maximum number of words on a slide is zero. Any more are unnecessary.

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