Older people write better digital content


Thomas Heath / January 2013

I’ve just turned 41. I played football on my Birthday, ruptured my Achilles tendon and now I’m here with my leg in plaster. So I thought I’d mention one benefit of getting older.

Age (like laziness) makes people do things more efficiently. No unnecessary movements. The young squash player sprints about while his wiry old opponent barely moves from the ideal centre-T spot. The veteran wins (tendons willing).

Older writers learn to stay close to that ideal spot, because age brings wisdom about what does and doesn’t need saying. Ernest Hemingway (a particularly wiry veteran) called it iceberg theory:

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. (from Death in the Afternoon)

The art of omission matures with age. There are many exceptions (several at The Art of Explaining), but in an era that’s made brevity a premium product, I’ve found older copywriters are more likely to command the T-spot.

Thomas Heath