Don’t worry, I’ll keep this brief.
In my career I have noticed a distinct change in how written communication tends to (not always!) differ as you move up the hierarchies. For example:
I hope you are well.
I am emailing you as I have finished the report and I was wondering if you would potentially have the time to have a brief read over it for me and let me know your thoughts.
I know you are very busy at the moment so don’t worry about reading it any time soon, just when you have a spare 5 minutes.
Many thanks in advance!
Please see report attached. Thoughts?
The end result of both email is the same, so why is there this trend and what can we learn from it?
One thought is that as you move up the hierarchy, your time to be able to read and send emails diminishes with the increase in workload and a calendar packed with meetings. This is likely true, though the change in writing style shouldn’t be viewed as a result of lack of time, but a change in behaviour to increase efficiency and effectiveness from increased pressures elsewhere; think Darwin’s survival of the fittest.
A study by the Radicati Group in 2015 suggested the average office worker receives 121 emails per day and this number is increasing. Along with studies suggesting that the average attention span has gone from 12 seconds in 2000, to just eight seconds in 2015 (that’s one second less than a goldfish!), we can see why being able to communicate concisely is becoming so important.
In written communication, this is called brevity – the concise and exact use of words in writing or speech.
Clearly brevity is important no matter what the situation, but as someone who works in a sales environment I believe it is paramount. If you receive an email from a colleague or friend, you are probably going to read it, but what about unsolicited or mass emails?
According to a study by Retention Science, emails with subject lines of six to ten words were the most likely to be opened and subject lines with five or fewer words were the second most opened at 16%:
This conveys the importance of brevity before someone has even opened your email! If you manage to get as far as them reading it you then only have those eight seconds to engage with them so you need to make sure you get to your point. Saying less to engage more may seem backward, but the stats don’t lie!
Some tips to keep it brief:
Write first, then edit. It is much easier to shorten something in front of you than to write it as short as possible first time
Stick to your point – what is the main objective of your email? Don’t try to cram too much in and remove unnecessary details
Stop using pointless words – words like very, really and actually are not necessary. If you need to emphasise something, there will be a suitable word. You’re not “very tired”, you’re “exhausted”
Ask for help and practice, practice, practice
Hopefully this will help you with your written communication but remember the same rules don’t always apply to everyone. Some people respond best to a minimalist email like the second example above, but others may perceive it as rude and abrasive.
The number one rule of sales stills applies – know your customer.
Paul Porter, Venn Group