I write short emails. Usually no more than five sentences, often fewer. The sentences tend to be truncated in their own right.
Sometimes people complain to me that I write short emails, and they don’t know what I am thinking. I don’t care, I keep them short.
Why write short emails?
Shakespeare once said, “brevity is the soul of wit.” For me, it’s the essence of sanity.
Conversely, Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” He must have had more time and patience than me.
Here are a few reasons why:
The first and most important reason for short emails is efficiency. The amount of emails I receive are insane (yes, I am not alone). Because I am an inbox zero guy, I do scan every email; however, I do not read them all, nor do I respond to a vast majority.
Responses tend to be short communications that expedite a project, acknowledge someone, or provide an answer. In essence, email is about workflow. I choose not to invest hours every day answering email.
This might surprise you, but some people read into emails too much. I know, who needs a soap opera? When you have short emails, it’s really hard to press the ignite button.
Make sure to say please and thank you. Most people realize you’re not being short to be a jerk, you just wrote a brief email. And when you have two back and forths, pick up the phone or walk across the hall and talk to each other.
Then there is the forwarding factor. Frankly, we all know people forward emails. And we have all received these emails of angst.
Even last year I had a trusted business partner who forwarded my emails to his/her social media friends and staff, complaining about and analyzing the messages. Once I figured out that our correspondence was the source of backstabbing and reputation sabotage, trust dissolved.
I became very brief. With no fuel to add to the fire, a calmer (and much less frequent) correspondence developed. And yes, eventually I did end my business with said person.
I know several executives who request that recipients ask for permission to share email as part of their signature. You can see why. I’d rather be mindful about what I say, and assume that anything and everything might be forwarded.
That being said, sometimes a long email is necessary, and knowing when to do that is important. I don’t over think those emails, but clearly they require more thought than a simple workflow correspondence.
How do you approach email?