Okay. I admit it. I'm not the world's most concise writer. I often go on and on and on when I shouldn't.
But today, I got an email from someone that makes me want to make a very specific point:
If your email is more than 3-4 paragraphs, I'm probably not going to read it.
The longer I "live" in the world of email, the more intolerant I am of long-winded text. I'm growing impatient with reading long documents, plowing through long email threads, reading long magazine articles, and browsing text-heavy web sites. Give me the gist. Give me what I need to know. Give me some charts or pretty pictures. And if I need more information, tell me where I can get it.
The sad fact is, though, that a lot of well-intentioned employees (I used to be one of them) think that lots of text proves lots of thought, and longer means better. I learned that if when someone can't get to the meat of the issue, it's overly-complex, or worst, not thought through.
Most business decisions are pretty simple, when you get to the heart of the matter. If you can't tell me what I need to know in the first paragraph or two, an email is probably going to get deleted (or almost as bad, put into my "read me" folder--I should rename it to my "pretend-to-plan-to-read-me-but-delete-later" folder).
There are very few exceptions: 1) if it's something that's completely relevant to me, and I need the information; 2) if your writing style is engaging and you're telling a story; or 3) you do a great job outlining the email, with titles that lead me to relevant content; 4) it's an email from my wife, my mom, BillG or SteveB.