Hemingway's 6-Word Story: Tips on Using Word Economy in Your B2B Marketing

In this episode we’re keeping it short and sweet. (Sort of. Depends on your definition of “short” and “sweet.”) And showing you how to use the economy of words in your B2B marketing.

Episode Summary

Your audience doesn’t have time to read a novel. Say more with less.

You want the text in your campaign to impact viewers, so that it stays with them. So that they think about it later. So that they’re sure to talk about it with their team. So that they’ll buy what you’re selling.

And what better Man-of-Few-Words to learn from than Ernest Hemingway. He is the master of the short, impactful phrase. Today, we’re talking about the legendary six-word story that Hemingway supposedly wrote: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” And how you, too, can pack a punch in a few words – but maybe make it a touch less sad.

In this episode we’re keeping it short and sweet. (Sort of. Depends on your definition of “short” and “sweet.”) And showing you how to use the economy of words in your B2B marketing.

About the 6-Word Story

Legend has it that American writer Ernest Hemingway was having lunch at The Algonquin hotel sometime in the 1920s with his writer friends when he made a ten-dollar bet that he could write a short story in just six words. On a napkin, he wrote, “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” He then collected his earnings from his incredulous friends.

It’s a great story, but it’s likely apocryphal. According to an investigation published in The Journal of Popular Culture, there’s no proof Hemingway actually wrote those six words.

There are a few places the legend likely originated. One possibility is literary agent Peter Miller, who wrote about it in his 1974 book, Get Published! Get Produced!: A Literary Agent’s Tips on How to Sell Your Writing. The tall tale may have been inspired by a newspaper urban legend: the story of a classified ad from 1906 that read: “For sale, baby carriage, never been used. Apply at this office.” A 1917 essay by William R. Kane profiled a woman who lost her baby, and it was entitled “Little Shoes, Never Worn.”

But it doesn’t actually matter where this story came from. What matters is what we can learn from it.

Key Takeaways

What B2B Companies Can Learn From Ernest Hemingway:

  • Be intentional about word choice. Embrace the economy of words – use fewer words to say more. It’s a technique that likely came from journalism, where there was limited space on a newspaper page. In marketing, it’s a means to stand out from your competition.
  • Trust your audience to fill in the blanks. Don’t spoon feed your audience the message. Make them think and engage their critical thinking skills (Sound familiar? We’ve talked about this before). Trust that they’ll make the necessary inferences, associations, and assumptions to get the message. Hemingway doesn’t say, “A baby passes away, selling shoes.” He says, “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” This version is more emotionally compelling, because the audience has to make their own deductions about why the shoes are for sale.
  • Tug at your audience’s heartstrings. Use words that evoke an emotional response. They make your readers feel something and/or push them to take action. It’s a common technique, especially in the B2C world. Think De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” campaign, reflecting the idea of everlasting love. Allstate’s “You’re in Good Hands” evokes a sense of comfort and security. Without saying much, these brands made us feel something in just a few words. And you can, too, in your marketing.

*”Words on a page and words spoken to you are the ways that you can paint an extremely vivid picture in your audience or customer base's mind.” - Ian Faison

*”In a day and age where people's attention spans are limited and there's constantly a million things going on, like a million ads being sent your way, emails in your inbox every second, the fewer words you use to get your point across, the more valuable.“ - Anagha Das

*”It's a testament to the human imagination. The human mind is a lot stronger and smarter than people give it credit for. It takes so little to inspire someone's imagination to fill in the blanks or to latch onto the essence of what you're trying to say. To now cut through the noise almost involves saying less to be different than everybody else.” - Dane Eckerle

Episode Highlights


Demystifying Hemingway’s 6-Word Story

Hemingway’s 6-Word Sequels

Learn More About Power Words in Marketing

Examples of Economy of Words in Marketing Campaigns:

De Beers


Kay Jewelers



Dunkin Donuts


About Remarkable!

Remarkable! is created by the team at Caspian Studios, the premier B2B Podcast-as-a-Service company. Caspian creates both non-fiction and fiction series for B2B companies. If you want a fiction series check out our new offering - The Business Thriller - Hollywood style storytelling for B2B. Learn more at

In today’s episode, you heard from Ian Faison (CEO of Caspian Studios), Dane Eckerle (Head of Development), Colin Stamps (Podcast Launch Manager), Anagha Das (B2B Content Marketing Manager), and Meredith O’Neil (Senior Producer). Remarkable was produced this week by Meredith O’Neil, mixed by Scott Goodrich, and our theme song is “Solomon” by FALAK.

Create something remarkable. Rise above the noise.