The Case for Concise
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” Thomas Jefferson
My good friend Alan sent me a worth-serious-consideration “Email Charter” from http://emailcharter.org/ This charter notes that ”We’re drowning in email,” and suggests 10 ways we can reverse the Email Spiral.
Excellent stuff – with one caveat: Think about why you are writing this email. Who you are writing it to – and what is his or her tolerance (or need) – for how much information. What is it you want to accomplish with this specific email?
Remember that business writing is a tool – a way to get a job done. Think about the tone – the relationship the writer sets up with the reader – you will use to accomplish your goals for this email. Only then do you put it all together and determine the content: what, and how much you must say.
In my business writing workshops across the country, the same themes crop up time and again: Write more concisely, and send your email only to those who truly need it; give enough background to bring the reader up to speed with where you are now, so he or she does not have to dig back through all the old emails to figure out what you are talking about and can answer easily; and let the reader know what he or she is supposed to do with, or about this email.
On the other hand, not all readers want “short and sweet” – believe it or not! That is why knowing your reader is so very important. Some of the participants in my workshops want a bit of friendliness – a “Hi, Mary. Hope you had a great weekend” sort of greeting to ease into the message. Others are totally put off by this “friendly” approach, and would rather just have the facts.
So ask yourself these questions:
What must this email accomplish? What specific results do I need?
Who am I writing it to? What, and how much information does this reader need?
What is the relationship (tone) I need to set up, or reinforce, with this reader to get the results I need?
What content should I use? What do I need to tell this reader to get the results I need?
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