10 Proven Techniques for Writing Short Emails That Get Results – LifeHack

“I apologize that this letter is so long. I did not have the time to make it short” – these words by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal some 400 years ago hold an eternal truth that is now more relevant than any other time in human history. With the explosion of digital communication tools, our inboxes are cluttered with an avalanche of emails, notifications, and updates vying for our attention. In such a scenario, the most effective way to get our message across is by being concise and to the point.

Good writers understand that concise and engaging language is preferable to verbose and rambling prose. In most cases, brevity allows us to convey our thoughts and ideas more effectively. However, in certain contexts, such as legal contracts or international treaties, covering all eventualities is necessary, but such documents are not meant to be read in their entirety.

With the rise of email as a primary tool for communication, getting our messages read in full becomes a significant challenge. In a sea of unwanted emails, newsletters, and updates, standing out and grabbing the reader’s attention requires using clear and concise language. A short email that can be read in one go has a higher chance of being read in its entirety than a long and winding message.

Mike Davidson, a former executive at Twitter and ESPN, realized this and came up with a radical solution. He committed to sending emails that were five sentences or less, every time, and started the website, five.sentenc.es, to encourage others to follow suit. The site advocates treating email-like SMS messages and using a set number of sentences per response. By following this policy, you help combat inbox overload and respect the recipient’s time.

The question then arises, how can we make sure we convey everything we need to within the five sentences limit? Unfortunately, our education system values wordiness, and students are often given instructions to write papers or essays of a specific length, leading to an emphasis on quantity over quality. As a result, concision is a skill that is often underdeveloped.

Fortunately, Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has offered a solution. He suggests that the optimal length for an email is five sentences and advises including who you are, what you want, why you should get it, and when you need it by. This structure helps you get your point across in the minimum amount of words possible.

For example, if you want to ask a professor for an extension on an essay, you could use the five-sentence format to write:

Professor Wax,
I’m a student in your Thursday afternoon anthropology class, and I’m having some trouble finding enough references for my term paper. Could you please give me an extra week to complete the assignment? I realize this might affect my grade, but I really want to give you the best paper I can, not just 10 pages of filler to make up for the missing information. Please get back to me by tomorrow morning so I can plan my writing schedule. Thanks,
Ace Tuden

Similarly, if you need data from a colleague to finish a report, you can use the five-sentence format to write:

I’m working on the report for our proposal to Acme, Inc. and really need the figures from the marketing analysis you ran. Could you get those to me by the end of the day so I can wrap this up? As you know, this report is crucial if we want to land that co-branding deal with Acme!
Emma Ployee

It’s important to remember that the goal is not to cram everything into five sentences; rather, it’s about writing as little as you need to get the point across. Also, while Kawasaki’s advice works well for most emails that request information, in some cases, a more extended email might be necessary. However, by using the five-sentence format as a guide, we can make each sentence count, and our message is more likely to be read and acted upon.

In conclusion, Pascal’s words ring true now more than ever before. With the avalanche of digital communication tools we have at our disposal, the time has come to embrace brevity and precision in our writing. By committing to writing short and concise emails, we show our respect for the recipient’s time and increase the likelihood of our messages being read. In the fast-paced world we live in, every second counts, and by using short emails, we can make every second count.

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