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A great friend of mine, SVP of Marketing at Rodale Press (Bicycle Magazine, Men’s Health, Prevention Magazine, etc), likes to point out when there’s Activity mistaken for Achievement. Nothing epitomizes this more than long-winded emails to show how well we can tap on a keyboard… and often say nothing at all! We all get plenty of email and I’ve noticed a terrifying trend of long-winded emails, unsummarized ‘fwds’ and instances where we should have the communication in a phone call or hold a short meeting.
The LifeHacker article below sums a great reminder for the week. #4 & #7 are great. #8 is something I’m watching out for in any email sent to me. And please act upon #7 – it will help you help your audience.
If you read it and follow it, I think we can all sometime avoid the blunder of Activity mistaken for Achievement in some of those long emails.
Your Emails Are Too Long: Here’s How to Fix Them
I recently received an email asking me a simple request. However, the email was three pages long. The whole message could have been three lines, but instead the author decided to write a short novella. Needless to say, I didn’t read the whole thing. Nor did I respond. Are your emails going unread because they are too long?
Long Emails Don’t Get Read
You may take email for granted. However, effective email communication is as much a skill as anything else. When used effectively, email can be a powerful tool. However, one of the top email inefficiencies is message length. One of the top reasons your email isn’t getting read is because it is too long. Writing long emails doesn’t mean you are getting more work done. As people are fighting to get their inbox to empty, the last thing they want to do is read a multi-page rambling email.
Keep Those Emails Short
Resist the urge to write long and drawn out messages. If you find yourself writing long responses, you probably should be having a conversation, not an email writing contest. The shorter and tighter your email messages, the better chance that they will be read, understood and acted upon.
Here are 10 Reasons That Your Emails Are Too Long
- You don’t know what you are trying to say. It’s like when someone calls you and says, “What’s up?” Um, I don’t know… you called me. Hold that email until you have something specific to say or ask.
- You don’t know what you are talking about. This is similar to when people endlessly talk in meetings to cover up their lack of information. Writing more isn’t going to cover up the fact that you are lacking knowledge. This practice occurs in many companies when individuals send emails to “appear” busy.
- Your signature is unnecessary. Your half-page signature doesn’t need to be on all of your emails. Do you send emails with a 1 word response and then half of a page of signature? As well, please lose the attached graphic and cute quote.
- You are writing a book. Emails are not books. If there is additional information, attach supporting documents. If you are putting a large table in your email, you should stop and consider whether it should be in an attachment.
- You are spamming. This happens often in larger corporations. Employees feel the need to send each other lengthy updates of what they have been doing. And it’s not just the remote employees. I used to get multi-page updates from a guy down the hall on his daily activities. Not needed.
- You are rambling. Don’t write a 2-page email to ask a 1-line question. Be direct. Thanks.
- You are forwarding a mess. Instead of taking the time explain, you just forward your email stream. Ever get one of those, “See below..!” messages. Um, I don’t want to read the 45 page back-and-forth that you participated in.
- It shouldn’t be an email. Don’t send an email when it should be a meeting. Or a phone call. Sometimes email isn’t the right medium for your message. If it is taking more than a few lines to explain, then go talk to the person you need to communicate with.
- It should be multiple emails. Here is a good one. One boss combines all of the team items into one email. You may think this is an attempt at efficiency, however combining multiple emails into one doesn’t work for everyone involved. And it creates great aftermath when people “Reply All.”
- You don’t edit your emails. After you write an email, you should edit it before sending. Besides the obvious spelling and grammatical errors, you should be editing for content, meaning, and conciseness. Another good thumb-rule: the number of times you should re-read an email before sending is equal to the number of people you are sending it to. (And yes, this rule scales.)
Make Sure Your Email Gets to the Point
In today’s high-speed communication, no one wants to read overly long email messages. If your emails are brief and to the point, your recipients will be more likely to get the point. Remember that short and sweet will beat the 3-page email every time.
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