Most of us don’t want to read through three paragraphs of text when we could get the message in one, but that doesn’t mean we’re not guilty of inflicting the same lack of email concision on others. Here are some helpers.
Before we get started, I should pre-empt this post with a concise summary of the helpful suggestions below, in case you don’t want to wade through all that pesky text:
- In your email, be brief and to the point.
- Cut it down to subject only if you can with EOM.
- For most email, try to keep it under five sentences.
Note: When we talk about email writing values this week, we’re talking primarily about work-related email. If you’re emailing a note to a friend, go nuts with whatever style of writing you prefer.
Get It in the Subject
Your subject line sets the tone for your entire email: Don’t throw it away. Instead, try making it into a clear statement of what’s going to be in the email. In fact, if you can say everything in the subject, you can stop there and go with the old End of Message (EOM) trick. Essentially, you write out your subject, add (EOM) to the end of the line, and hit send.
If it sounds like an esoteric trick, it’s not as unusual as you may think. Gmail won’t even prompt you about sending a message without any text in the body because it understands what EOM is all about.
Treat Email Like SMS, and Whenever You Can, Keep It Under Five.Sentenc.es
When you’re trying to make your email more concise, it might help to try imposing a strict philosophy along the lines of five.sentenc.es:
The Problem E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.
The Solution Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.
five.sentenc.es is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be five sentences or less. It’s that simple.
The site suggests adding some text to your email signature pointing the recipient toward five.sentenc.es in explanation of your brevity; you can also get more extreme with four.sentenc.es, three.sentenc.es or two.sentenc.es.
Of course, you don’t need to use any site to explain your concision. Just keep it clear, keep it concise, and your recipients will thank you.