If we have emailed in the last years, you might have noticed that below my signature I post the following two lines:
Q: Why is this email four sentences or less?
There are two reasons why I add this to my signature:
- As a personal reminder for myself to keep mails concise. It works. When writing an email I (subconsciously) check whether I meet the policy or not. Therefore, it’s been a simple way to change my behaviour.
- I have the hope that others might adopt the same policy.
Why do I believe this is a policy worth spreading?
- Time is precious. Writing and answering mails is (in most cases) not a very productive and “valuable” activity. I understand that we cannot go without email. However, let’s stick to the essentials.
- I believe that everybody has enough daily information already. I don’t want to intrude and bug with unnecessary noise.
- I hope that when people learn that I send concise and relevant mails, my mails will be read.
- Shorter mails get a quicker response. When I get long emails, which take time to read and require actions I often postpone them for later. This is especially true when I am on the road checking from my phone.
This is not a black or white policy obviously. Around 80%-90% of my mails fall into the four sentences policy. Nevertheless, there are mails which require more sentences and that is fine too. Here is an overview over the word count from mails I received and sent in February 2013.