Your Emails Are Too Long: How To Fix Them

I recently received an email making a simple request. However, the email was three pages long. The whole message could have been three lines, but instead the author decided to write a short novella. Needless to say, I didn't read the whole thing. Nor did I respond. Are your emails going unread because they are too long?

Image remixed from auremar (Shutterstock)

Long Emails Don't Get Read

You may take email for granted. However, effective email communication is as much a skill as anything else. When used properly, email can be a powerful tool. However, one of the top email inefficiencies is message length. One of the top reasons your email isn't getting read is because it is too long. Writing long emails doesn't mean you are getting more work done. As people are fighting to get their inbox to empty, the last thing they want to do is read a multi-page rambling email.

Keep Those Emails Short

Resist the urge to write long and drawn out messages. If you find yourself writing long responses, you probably should be having a conversation, not an email writing contest. The shorter and tighter your email messages, the better the chance that they will be read, understood and acted upon.

10 Reasons That Your Emails Are Too Long

  1. You don't know what you are trying to say. It's like when someone calls you and says "What's up?" Um, I don't know . . . you called me. Hold that email until you have something specific to say or ask.
  2. You don't know what you are talking about. This is similar to when people endlessly talk in meetings to cover up their lack of information. Writing more isn't going to cover up the fact that you lack knowledge. This practice occurs in many companies when individuals send emails to "appear" busy.
  3. Your signature is unnecessary. Your half-page signature doesn't need to be on all of your emails. Do you send emails with a 1-word response and then half of a page of signature? As well, please lose the attached graphic and cute quote.
  4. You are writing a book. Emails are not books. If there is additional information, attach supporting documents. If you are putting a large table in your email, you should stop and consider whether it should be in an attachment.
  5. You are spamming. This happens often in larger corporations. Employees feel the need to send each other lengthy updates of what they have been doing. And it's not just the remote employees. I used to get multi-page updates from a guy down the hall on his daily activities. Not needed.
  6. You are rambling. Don't write a 2-page email to ask a 1-line question. Be direct. Thanks.
  7. You are forwarding a mess. Instead of taking the time explain, you just forward your email stream. Ever get one of those, "See below..!" messages. Um, I don't want to read the 45 page back-and-forth that you participated in.
  8. It shouldn't be an email. Don't send an email when it should be a meeting. Or a phone call. Sometimes email isn't the right medium for your message. If it is taking more than a few lines to explain, then go talk to the person you need to communicate with.
  9. It should be multiple emails. Here is a good one. One boss combines all of the team items into one email. You may think this is an attempt at efficiency, but combining multiple emails into one doesn't work for everyone involved. And it creates a lousy aftermath when people "Reply All."
  10. You don't edit your emails. After you write an email, you should edit it before sending. Besides the obvious spelling and grammatical errors, you should be editing for content, meaning and conciseness. Another good thumb-rule: the number of times you should re-read an email before sending is equal to the number of people you are sending it to. (And yes, this rule scales.)

Make Sure Your Email Gets To The Point

No one wants to read overly long email messages. If your emails are brief and to the point, your recipients will be more likely to get the point. Remember that short and sweet will beat the 3-page email every time.

Are you guilty of sending long email messages?

10 Reasons Your Emails Are Too Long [Time Management Ninja]

Craig Jarrow is the author of Time Management Ninja. The mission of this site it to help individuals and companies reclaim their time. He writes about time management, productivity, and goal setting.


Comments

    The subject was interesting, but the body of your article was too long, so I moved on...

    Seriously, if you're advocating to make your email message shorter, you should get to the point quicker.

    And I wasn't kidding about not reading the entire article.

    My last boss would constantly get on my back about the length of many of the emails I sent, but the moment I tried making them even the slightest bit shorter it'd turn into a game of 20 questions, finishing with him on my back about wasting his time and not including all the information in the first place.

    It was a no-win situation. So glad I quit that job.

    However, the email was three pages long. The whole message could have been three lines, but instead the author decided to write a short novella. Needless to say, I didn’t read the whole thing. Nor did I respond.

    How do you know it could have been condensed into 3 lines if you didn't read the whole thing?

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