Applying Hemingway's Iceberg Theory to Your Content Marketing

By Philip BerardoJul 19, 2017


iceberg floating in arctic ocean at night with moon in the sky

image credit: Bruce Rolff/

Ernest Hemingway’s famous “Iceberg Theory” states that a writer should explicitly include only 1/8 of the details, while leaving the other 7/8 implied. In other words, less can mean so much more.

In content marketing, Hemingway’s concept can be applied to establish a stronger relationship with readers, while also building trust. Instead of bombarding readers with statistics and hyperbole, here are some ways you can improve your content marketing with the iceberg theory. 


1. Focus on what your audience wants to see

If you’re leaving out 7/8 of your story, you need to determine what the significance of your 1/8 will be. Make it relatable to your buyer-persona and address any concerns he or she may have. If your content isn’t relevant to your most common readers, it likely won’t be meaningful to others.

Additionally, the 1/8 of content you provide needs to be as cohesive and detailed as possible. You are only focusing on one subject, so you need to make an impact in a small number of characters. Be specific and keep your audience in mind to plan the most crucial details to support your content. 

2. Show, don’t tell

Trust your readers enough to know they can understand what you are saying. You only have a small amount to work with, so don’t spend too much time explaining what can be easily implied, or visually represented. You can show more by trying the following strategies:

  • Provide relevant images- images should directly correlate with your content. This not only gives a simple visual depiction of your statement, but also provides a temporary break from text.

  • Explain your statements clearly, but succinctly - your company may be committed to giving the best content to readers, but how will they do this? What are your company’s goals and past successes? While you don’t want too much information, you also shouldn’t let a simple claim rest on its own.

  • Verbs give action to your stories- when telling your story, try using actions to show your accomplishments. Relying on simplistic adjectives (such as “bad” or “happy”) won’t provide enough meaningful context to a story. Be descriptive and show why or how something happened through action.

3. Avoid using hyperbole

Avoid using phrases that sound cheap or exaggerated. You want your readers to trust your voice, and hyperbole won’t help. Explain why your content is successful by providing examples of your work ethic or previous problems your company was able to address. Simply listing off statistics to your readers, such as “We have the best tech writing of 2017,” will only sound desperate and gives a haughty image to your company.

Too much information doesn’t always equal the best results. Consistent, relevant, short stories will help engage readers and give character to your writing. For additional content strategy tips, check out one of our eBooks. 

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