Why long emails ? Keep it short !

Why long emails ? Keep it short !

It is common for us to deal with hundreds of emails daily and yes, you have to be highly attentive when attending to your emails especially those requesting for high priority technical support. However, in many cases, emails get missing in your inbox (probably you moved it to another folder) or accidentally marked as “read” and you were not aware of not (maybe not yet) attending to it.

Often in managing large projects, incoming emails can be overloaded especially when the email conversation is being “replied to all” – so even with a one line text, the conversation thread will be accumulated. Well, using thread view could be the best practice for you now but ever thought of when the conversation grows even bigger than you could imagine? Try using a corporate wiki platform? Your call!

Recently, we received an email, asking us very simple technical related question regarding SEO and Web Solution, together with a few to-do items. To our astonishment after reading the three pages long (standard A4 size) email, we thought the message could be delivered at most in a two paragraphs (half of a standard A4 size). Needless to say, the long email was not circulated to the team but rather summarized it before passing it over as they may not be reading it entirely. So think! Are your emails so long that may annoy the recipient when reading it?

Long Emails Usually Get Ignored

Probably not ignored, but to certain extent, it definitely annoyed the recipient and not to mention the details which could be important at the end of the message may be overlooked. If that is so, it defeats the purpose of using email to promote effective communication and collaboration. 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 (at least some of the large corporations use email archiving system to keep emails for official proof if any legal-related disputes occur). 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.

So, Keep Those Messages Short

Resist the urge to write long and drawn out messages. The shorter and tighter your email messages, the better chance that they will be read, understood and acted upon. If you really need to write long messages in your emails, consider giving your recipient a phone call instead and drop them summarized pointers after the phone conversation ends.

Based on our experience in dealing with emails daily, here are some of the reasons we found out behind the story of writing long emails:

  1. You have almost no idea what you are trying to express – similar to when someone asked you randomly or for the sake of courtesy, “Hey mate, how are you today?”, “Good, thanks, how about yourself?”, and that got hanging there.
    - Only write an email with a specific purpose
  2. You don’t even know what you are talking – just like when you see someone in a presentation talks endlessly just to cover up their lack of information. Writing more in the email does not mean you are good in certain area and that does not in any way complement the fact that you are lacking knowledge.
    - Keep your points direct
  3. Your signature may have taken almost half of the email. Some people just have long signature (probably not referring to your name, designation and contact details) when almost no one bothers to read the disclaimer and email messaging policy. Considering doing one of these two: move the long email messaging policy and disclaimer text to your corporate website and point a link from your signature OR remove signature manually if you have introduced yourself for the first time.
    - Keep your signature short
  4. You are not writing a thesis report with all the supporting documents, diagrams, tables and etc. It’s an email! If you are one of those who includes these things in your email, consider dropping them and sending it via attachment, or you may also use any of the free file hosting service like sendspace.com (provided your attachments are not too much of confidential)
    - Use the attachment feature in your email client
  5. Some people especially irresponsible first level support desk staff, they tend to ALWAYS escalate cases to the next level by just solely forwarding an email without having the sense of guilt passing it ALL over to the other guy. Instead they could have taken time to filter and explain before forwarding the entire email stream. We bet you have seen much like “See below”, “FYA” and etc. Yes, you could have just done that if the email was short and really meant to be someone else’s but not because you are passing your responsibilities to others.
    - Be sensible when forwarding emails
  6. Some people just never bother reading before sending the emails out. You should always proof read to see if there are any obvious typos or grammatical errors – perhaps that’s not the most important, more importantly is you could cut down so much of unnecessary content. 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. (Why? Because you should assume yourself to be each of them when reading the email you.)
    - Proof read your emails just like how you did for your report

Making Sure Your Emails Are As Brief As Possible

In today’s high-speed communication, no one wants to read overly long email messages (some may even substitute emails with instant messaging – probably Facebook messaging – almost everyone you know is on Facebook). Your recipients would most likely to get the point if your emails are more compact. Don’t start rambling! Don’t write a 2-page email to ask a 1-line question! Get straight to the point.

Let’s also take a read on some best email practices written by Pin: http://www.1.com.my/2012/03/07/email-practices

Download the handy guide here.