The Art of Brief Emails

Original author: Leo Babauta
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Words are like sunbeams. The stronger the focus, the deeper the tourniquet. ~ Robert Southey

Emails are like a plague. They are spreading fast. They infect you until you are covered with sores and can do nothing useful. And they leave as a result the streets covered with corpses.

Okay, maybe emails are not quite like a plague.

But they can fill your whole day if you allow them. Welcome to the world of brevity.

Get mastery in the art of writing concise letters, and you can convey important information to others without taking a lot of time from yourself or your interlocutor. You will also inspire others to give short answers. And, getting rid of excessive chatter in letters, you will become better at writing.

Tips for writing short letters.
  • Skip the subject line. This contradicts the belief that the headline is the most important thing for anyone looking at your inbox. I personally look at the sender to understand whether you need to read the letter or not. And I easily see the first line of text in the list when I use Gmail. So the title becomes unimportant. Just skip it and go to the text.
    Comment. Some people think this is bad manners, so find out what your interlocutor expects. With friends, family and colleagues, this method works. In more formal letters you will have to indicate the topic, and most likely you will have to give up some other further advice.
  • Shorten the letter to a few sentences. I constantly promote the rule of five sentences , and, in fact, if you meet 2-3 sentences, it will be even better. Established restrictions make you be shorter - like a haiku.
  • Skip the greeting. Naturally, etiquette makes us greet each other. But most of the letters we write to friends and colleagues, but they do not care. Their time is valuable. Go to the point.
  • Skip signature. I hate long signatures, especially from those with whom I regularly communicate. I already know all about them, why again to remind? Just a signature, as short as possible. My usual signature is leo, but if I know a person well, I will omit that too.
  • Narrow the topic. If you find that the letter is long, it usually means that you are trying to cover too many topics. This leads to problems - the recipient may skip a specific part, for example. Choose one topic and get to the point.
  • Edit. I know you go write, send and forget. Well, this is rude to the recipient. You kind of say that he does not deserve a good letter. I’m not saying that you need to spend an hour perfecting the letter, but you can re-read it within 10 seconds, remove unnecessary sentences and words, and make this a great service to the recipient.
  • Think about whether you should send it at all. Sometimes letters are not needed. Before sending, or even before writing, think about whether they need your “thank you” or “understood” or something else like that. Sometimes they are needed, but if a person sent you a letter “understood”, then you do not need to send him “thank you!”

If you know people who need to read this article, send them an email. A short.
If you need a lot of words to express what you are thinking about, think again. ~ Dennis Roth

About the Author:

Leo Babauta is a blogger and author of several books. One of his blogs, Zen Habits, is among the top 100 most read by Technorati .

Photo: jubewong

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