Email – Brevity is Best

Designers hands typing on keyboard

On a scale of Madonna’s bra cup to Taylor Swift’s bank account, how full is your inbox right now? It’s probably preeeetty up there, right?

I’m not sure about you, but about 12 months into business I had this pivotal moment where the clouds parted and I realised that being your own boss was actually code for spending the rest of your life inside your inbox.

There’s no denying email is mind-blowing. It’s one of the most significant, life-altering inventions of our generation. That email you just tappity-tapped out into the vortex of cyberspace? It’s coming in hot at 150,000 km per second – even our mate, Usain Bolt would think that’s fast. But levelling out the awesomeness of the zippiest accessibility to communication and productivity around is the reality of a never-ending crevasse of emails coming out of every thinkable orifice.

Emails aren’t a new fandangled kid on the block, so we’ve become desensitised, if not a little disillusioned, to the pure miracle of shooting little messages out into the air and it landing on someone else’s screen. It’s become a burden, a chore, just another mundane item on the daily task list that holds more than Mary Poppins’ handbag.

I’m almost certain that my disdain for emails stems from a limited capacity to give them due attention. If I had all the hours in the day to sit and ponder, relax and reply, I’m sure I’d be fine. But, just like any other business owner, I receive between 100 and 150 emails a day. We live in a culture where time is money and money is a dang non-negotiable in a city like Sydneytown. Emails need replying to keep the work rolling in — it’s a catch 22 to actually getting anything much done sometimes!

So what do we do about it? Do we spend our lives inside our inbox just blasting out responses at a rate of knots? Do we lose sight of the actual tasks that need doing and just spend our lives in the crossfire of inboxes? Sometimes it feels like there’s no other choice.

I’m working on one solution. I’ve been tapping away at it for a little while now. I’m working on the ‘Brevity is Best’ email institution. When people write me an email, my main goal in replying is to express what I need to express in the fewest words possible without sounding like a rude robot. Sweet, succinct, accurate — and importantly — super swift.

Why? Because in my opinion, receiving digital waffle is a form of torture.

It’s true, we all love a good yarn and every now and then can find ourselves tap-tap-tapping away on our keyboards with a long-winded story when really we could just spell it out in a sentence or two. I blame English teachers for encouraging us to really ‘flesh-out’ our ideas – I’m pretty sure I would have won the ‘Faff your way through 23 pages of essay’ award if it existed. We’ve all been guilty of writing that ridiculous email to our work colleague:

“Hey Johnny boy J-dawggy dawg Johnitski Jabba-J,
I trust this email finds you well and free of herpes, chickenpox, pneumonia and scabies. I ran into your mum’s sister’s cat the other and she said she was off to the vet on the corner of 21st Ave, just before the turnoff to Mount St – you know the one with the bright blue sign out the front? Yeah well anyways… ”

Houston we have a problem. It’s called digital diarrhoea. And it’s shooting from our fingertips faster than the speed of email itself.

If there is one thing that busy people value above all else, it’s brevity. Busy people are busy people, and most don’t have time to read a massively long email, even if they want to. I used to be (and still occasionally am) such a culprit of the long-winded-sit-down-with-a-cuppa-and-a-six-course-degustation-to-read-this-email until I realised myself that I don’t even have time to write these emails, let alone receive 30 of them in my inbox.

So now I try to live by the rule, that if I’m going to add to someone else’s inbox queue, I’m going to strive to be accurately succinct and sweetly swift, so as to grant them an extra few seconds in their day. After all, I don’t want my recipients to die of old age! I challenge you to do the same. Keep it short, keep it sweet and keep it real.

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