Clarity challenge solutions

Hello again,

Well done for taking the challenge. We have outlined the solutions below along with some next steps you might like to take if you would like to get better at creating clarity in your own work, or perhaps at encouraging your team members to do likewise.


How many governing ideas can you have for each storyline?

Preferably only one. The purpose of the governing idea, or answer, is to unify your whole argument. Creating that single unifying statement forces you to distil your thinking and be very clear in your own mind, while it also articulates very clearly for your reader the ‘glue' that holds your argument together.

How many ideas can you have at the key line of a grouping, or inductive storyline?

Anywhere between 2 and 5 is ideal: Less than 2 is not a grouping and more than 5 is just hard on your reader. Most of us manage best when we are presented with only three ideas at a time, which is why so many master orators present their arguments in threes. Listen to some famous speeches by people like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Obama and you will see what we mean.

An introduction can contain controversial ideas

The absolutely safest answer here is ‘never', however if the audience knows about the idea that is controversial you can get away with it. Good manners suggest leaving things that will upset your audience until they are ‘warmed up', though.

What is the maximum number of words you should have in your governing idea?

Ideally no more than 25. This is long enough for a functional and powerful sentence and yet short enough to avoid lots of commas and ‘ands' that form a sneaky opportunity to join a series of ideas together rather than synthesising your information into just one compelling thought.

The purpose of the governing idea, or answer, is to ..

All of the above! The governing idea makes it easier for your audience to understand your purpose by unifying your argument under a single theme. Clarifying for yourself what that single unifying idea actually is also forces you to do some hard thinking.

Deductive arguments have four ideas at the key line 

Rarely, if ever. Throughout the 40 or so years that Gerard and I have been using these techniques we have rarely found a genuine need to use four ideas in a deductive key line. There have been some memorable ‘debates' about the need to do so for client political reasons, however these have been based on tactics – and not logic – as a clear three point deductive argument was possible in each case.

A typical deductive argument will have one single statement, one comment on that statement and one implication.

What are parallel ideas?

Parallel ideas both respond to the same question in the reader's mind and are the same kind of thing (e.g. all reasons, all actions, etc).

Next steps

If you would like to learn more about this approach you may like to

  • Sign up for our free newsletter, The Big Idea
  • Ask us to send you the Warm Up module from the Clarity Through Storylines eCourse (free of charge)
  • Learn more about the Clarity Through Storylines eCourse to see if it might help you take your storylining to the next level.
  • Email us at if you have questions

Clarity College