According to a 2012 study by New York City-based management consulting firm McKinsey and Company, the average worker spends 28 percent of their day reading and answering email. That amounts to nearly 13 hours a week and to 650 hours a year. Keeping emails brief and to the point can help you reclaim some of this time, increase your productivity and improve your chances of getting a reply.
“Proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness,” according to Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. “Less than five sentences is often abrupt and rude, more than five sentences wastes time,” he says. He outlines four simple guidelines to follow when writing an email:
- Your email should answer five simple questions: Who are you? What do you want? Why are you asking me? Why should I do what you’re asking? What is the next step?
- Cut out excessive details to get a response.
- Shorter emails will help you stay focused.
- Limit everything but praise.
(Exception to Kawasaki’s rules: If the only reason you’re sending an email is to praise someone or offer some kindness, there are no limits. Don’t worry about the length.)
The website five.sentenc.es has started a movement limit to emails to fewer than five sentences. They outline the approach as such:
E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.
Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.
Ready to join the movement? Head over to http://five.sentenc.es/ to grab an email signature message explaining your new outlook.