Rules for Short, Effective Emails

Ignore these rules at your peril:

  1. Keep it to 5 sentences. No more. I stole this from five.sentenc.es of course, but I’ve used it for years and it works. I usually try to do fewer than 5.
  2. Figure out your main point. If you think you need more than 5 sentences, you haven’t figured out the key thing you want to say. Take a second to figure it out, and stick to just that.
  3. Ask one thing. Don’t ask 10 questions, just ask one. Or two at the most. You’re much more likely to get an answer quickly.
  4. Edit. If you stretched it to 8 sentences, cut out 3.
  5. Link. If you need to refer to info, include a link to it on the web.
  6. Post it. If the info you need to share isn’t on the web, put it there. Create a long answer or long background document (then edit it to the essential info) and post it online. Use your blog, or one of the many free tools for posting info. Create an FAQ if it’s useful. Link to it in your email.

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