Above is a word count chart of the emails I send and receive, generated by Gmail Meter. You’ll notice that over 60% of my sent emails are less than 10 words.
This is intentional. I used to think that every email had to be entirely thorough, as in-depth as possible, so as to minimize any confusion and ensure that I got my point across. Somewhere along the line I realized:
- Emails like that take a lot of time to write (I was wasting my time)
- People don’t like reading long emails (I was wasting other people’s time)
- Most of the time I could get my point across with 90%+ accuracy in a sentence or two
Now the objective is clarity in as few words as possible. Everyone involved saves time and energy for more important things. Certainly if an email is critical I put more time into it (or, if it’s that critical, request a call or meeting).
Writing clear and concise emails is not easy or natural for a lot of people, just as it doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s easy to write a concise email that makes things worse. In those cases, no one wins. Achieving clarity AND brevity is the holy grail of writing, and nowhere is that more important than with email, the place where the majority of us do the most writing.