Modicum Agency

Debunking the presentation 6×6 rule

You might already be familiar with the 6×6 rule. This presentation rule suggests that you should include no more than six words per line and no more than six bullet points per slide. The goal is to keep your slide from being so dense and packed with information that people don’t want to look at it.

But there’s a huge problem with the 6×6 rule:

It’s bogus.

Sure, the sentiment behind it is pretty valid. Nobody likes it when they’re presented with the dreaded wall of text, but this tip is so out of date, that it’s right up there with the PowerPoint mistakes that’ll make you look old. And plus, by these standards having a presentation with slides overloaded with text is just fine.

Do you know what the 6×6 rule could look like in practice? It looks like your audience tuning you out and reading what’s above your head.



Let’s just get this straight: brevity is an art. There’s something incredibly powerful about conveying a profound and eloquent thought in just a short sentence. And while we’ve all had those moments when our eyes glaze over when looking at slides that are overloaded with information, constraining content to six words per line just isn’t foolproof. There’s a difference between cutting and editing. The 6×6 rule lends itself more to the first.

Your first focus should always be conveying your points in the best way possible. As far as word limits are concerned, it’s more about balance than anything else. What if you’re incorporating a tagline that shouldn’t be broken up? What if you really want to incorporate a quote that has seven words? Do you just let the last one float awkwardly on an empty line by itself? Of course not. You should edit your message until it’s compelling, then support it with an equally compelling composition.

Check this out:

Check out the word count on that second line.

With the 6×6 rule, slides like this one aren’t possible. Again, brevity is great, but cutting and distorting the meaning of your message is just a shame.

When it comes to presentation design, you have to make what works visually. So why should you throw great content by the wayside because of a concept that was really popular in 2010? The 6×6 rule makes you cut for brevity instead of editing for clarity. Not to mention, the rule doesn’t seem to account for brand assets and design work of any kind. This shouldn’t be the norm or a standard.

It’s your presentation. You’re supposed to be the star of the show, so don’t let bad slide design overshadow you.

Have a big presentation coming up? Our award-winning team can help.


Read more:

7 PowerPoint mistakes that make you look (hella) old
How Steve Jobs fouled up presentations for the rest of us
Ask the expert: delivering a great presentation for a live audience