Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Writing succinctly takes thought. And thought takes time. Approach your emails with brevity in mind and you become a more proficient email writer. Here are some tips and an example below:
- Gather Your Thoughts
Before taking your first keystroke, think about the purpose of the email you are about to compose. Have an outline in your mind of what you need to say and why.
- Open with a Simple Greeting
Greetings are polite, but keep them short. Reserve personal thoughts for a p.s. at that end.
- Lead & Conclude with the Outcome You Want
If your email seeks a response, specify that up front and reiterate it at the very end.
- Write in the “Active Voice”
Writing in the active voice usually makes sentences shorter and sharper.
- Active: Our Human Resources Department recommends XYZ insurance.
- Passive: XYZ insurance has been recommended by our Human Resource Department.
- Use Bullets
Bullets are easy to write (relieving some grammatical and punctuation pressures) and readers easily absorb them. Use italics and bold to emphasize key words and dates.
- Eliminate Unnecessary Words!
Phrasing/idioms and words that add nothing to your writing include: “at the present time,” “the fact that,” “in regard to,” “literally,” “needless to say,” “at the end of the day,” and “actually.” Heed this advice from Cornell University English professor and author of The Elements of Style (1918), William Strunk Jr.: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
Good afternoon, Denise:
Please let me know by Friday if you agree with the following actions, based on last week’s discussion.
- Set up internal team conference call for 9 a.m. Thursday, March 21
- Send approved marketing materials to client by Monday, April 1
I look forward to hearing from you by the end of the week so I can proceed accordingly.
p.s. I hope things are going well for your daughter in the college admission process!
Author: Beth Ann Bachmann