How long should your emails be?

Featured image: that’s how the recipients of your loooong emails feel about them (credit: Liz Climo)

Summary: Your email will be most likely read on a mobile phone. Make it short enough to fit onto the screen without scrolling.

Do you want to maximise the chances of your emails being read?

I work with senior managers on a daily basis. There’s one thing that they all value most – surprise surprise – their time.  There’s probably nothing worse that you could do than wasting an executive’s time. You can capitalise on this, though.
Rule number one: emails aren’t supposed to be novels. In my opinion, if your email has more than 10 sentences, it’s very likely that a) it might not get read at all, b) the most important message will get lost in the ocean of waffle. That’s why I’m writing the summaries of the posts at the beginning of them – I want you to get the gist of my thinking and if you want to go into detail, then you should read on. Give the recipients of your communication a similar option.
Because what you have to understand is that they will most likely read your emails on their phones in a meeting (symbol of our times, unfortunately) or on their laptop between meetings and strategic planning. And guess what: if your email requires scrolling through reams of text, they just won’t bother, regardless of how valuable you think the message is. If you need to give them the full story – call or get a 1:1 with them. Don’t waste yours and theirs time on a lengthy email.
My recommendations are following:
1. Your email should fit on a mobile phone screen without scrolling. This way you are maximising the chance of it being read and actioned.
2. Teach yourself how to express yourself succinctly, but at the same time with pure substance. If you can’t put what you want to say in a few sentences, make the effort of simplifying it and turn it into something valuable and eye-catching. Elevator pitch is a thing, believe me – you want your whole communication to be as effective as that 30 seconds in an elevator with a billionaire.
Try this out and let me know when you notice the results.

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