Tough Love for Email


Email. It’s the tool that web workers love and hate. We couldn’t work without it (could we?), but we spend an awful lot of our waking moments reading, organizing, answering, and despairing of ever managing to deal with it all. Here at WWD we’ve written about controlling your email, handling email stress, and even declaring email bankruptcy.

Newsvine CEO Mike Davidson suggests another approach to taming the email monster: ruthless brevity.  In common with our own Anne Zelenka, he’s come to the conclusion that emails should be short instead of nice, but Mike has taken this a step further by instituting a formal policy for his own outgoing messages: they’re all five sentences or less.

To make the reason for the brevity clear to people,  Mike’s signature now has a link in it:

Q: Why is this email 5 sentences or less?

Sure enough, if you go over to the site, you’ll find an explanation of email brevity and why sentence counting makes more sense than character counting. If you’re feeling exceptionally tough towards your email, you can substitute,, or even in your own signature.

Personally, I’ll continue to strive for reasonable brevity without a hard-and-fast rule, but then, I’m not currently fighting an email crisis. If you are, you might find this little bit of extra discipline (or excuse) is what you need to help bail you out.


Matthew Cornell

Something I’ve discovered (and my clients verify) is adopting a two minute rule when processing email leads to a more direct and brief message style. If I’m committed to getting it written and sent that quickly, I really focus. Combined with the idea of making decisions when processing messages (i.e., not letting them sit), it moves processing to a higher level. Of course this is *harder* :-)

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