How to Keep Your Emails Short, Yet Effective

Written by: Leah Serrato 

According to a 2012 study by McKinsey and Company, a New York City-based management-consulting firm, the average worker spends 28% of their time reading, writing or responding to emails.  Given this, it could be seen that a LOT of time is actually being spent on these email-related tasks alone. Save time by keeping your work emails brief and direct.

By limiting your emails to essential points only, you get to increase your productivity as well as the chances of getting a reply. Guy Kawasaki, co-author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (Nononina Press, 2013) says, “Proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness.  Less than five sentences is often abrupt and rude, more than five sentences wastes time.”

So how can you keep your emails short, yet effective? Here are four of Kawasaki’s guidelines to help you out:

  • Answer five simple questions

Your email should provide just enough information to answer these five questions: “Who are you? What do you want? Why are you asking me? Why should I do what you’re asking? What is the next step?”

  • Get to the point

Before sending an email, read it again and remove any unnecessary information.  Put yourself in the recipients’ shoes: would you read and reply to that kind of email? Is there too much information and is it direct to the point?

  • Short but precise

When you limit yourself to just five sentences, it forces you to stay focused on what is important and thus, saves time.  It allows the recipient to decide quicker and increases your chance of getting a reply.

  • One exception – no limit to praise

Kawasaki says, “When you really don’t want anything from the recipient and you simply want to heap praise and kindness upon her, then you can go on as long as you like!”

Limiting your email to five sentences or less is no easy task, but with practice you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

Happy email-ing! :)