The art of short letters

The art of short letters

Save time and face with these techniques.

How do I save an hour or more in my email? Very easy: Write short letters, just a few sentences.

There are not many situations in life that require a letter of length in a novel. I'd argue that there are situations in which you might need a letter longer than a paragraph or two. Anything longer than that should just be packaged in apps, not in the body of the letter.

You know who writes short letters? People who are extremely busy and cannot write long answers. Also, people who have cut out 15 seconds of their precious time to reply and are guaranteed not to think about this letter again after it has been sent.

You know who writes long letters? Often these are people who have nothing else to do. Such a letter says that a person has plenty of free time, he is very concerned about the subject of the letter or the person to whom the letter is sent, or both. Take a look at the people who send you long letters and you will see a pattern.

Ask yourself: what type of letters would you like to be?

The advantages of short letters are many. If you send someone a very long letter, there is a chance that they will be placed in a folder called "Reply Later", where the letter will rot with the same long forgotten letters. That is, you won't get an answer or you will, but not as soon as you expect.

Writing short letters is an art. And in general, writing short is an art. Today, people value transparency and brevity more than ever. They read letters while waiting at traffic lights or riding in public transport, and certainly do not want to browse down page after page of your stream of consciousness.

So, when you create your letter, before clicking "Send" imagine your recipient reading the letter from your smartphone in the bathroom. Is everything clear in your letter from several lines?

American theater producer David Belasco, who lived at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, once said:

If you can't write your idea on the back of my business card, you don't have a clear idea.

Now  you know the merits of short letters, it's time to move on to practice. First of all, a short letter is not a rough letter. It should contain all the expected subtleties: a suitable greeting, a friendly tone, etc.

Think about it before you write. Imagine that you live in the good old days when the mail was handwritten or typed and there was no way to remove what was already on the sheet, and for a flawless result you should have foreseen everything from the very beginning. This means that you have to think several times before you write what you want to say. Think about what you want to say with the minimum number of words that are possible.

Why is that?

Sometimes we are asked questions that we do not know how to answer. Then we begin to write something incoherent, which has nothing to do with the question. And this is one of the forms of procrastination with the answer. It makes you feel productive while you just walk around the bush. Thinking about what you're going to say will make you talk straight and not grind nonsense. Here is a disgusting example of how this is usually not done:

When you have a minute, could you please look at the attached report and tell me what you think? I will be grateful for any help and advice you can give.

О! It's terrible to write and it's even more terrible to get. Instead, try this:

Please look at the attached report and send your opinion.Thank you!

There is still both a "thank you" and a "please" in the text, so you are still polite, but you are still direct and brief. In my opinion, the exclamation point after "Thank you" conveys an intonation and therefore the letter does not look harsh or coercive.

Always write one letter on the same subject. If you discuss more than one topic in a single email, it will cause confusion and delay, because recipients will not answer until they have all your questions answered. If you are asking five questions in a single email, you will have to wait until the recipient has all your questions answered (and the recipient thinks there is still time to postpone your long list).

The same technique will also help you to use the subject line effectively. Many people just leave the subject blank or write a meaningless phrase like "Hello! - but this is also the most valuable place in the recipient's mailbox. The subject, the sender's name and time are all that the recipient sees before opening the email. And it is on the basis of this information that we decide whether or not to open it.

So the subject matter of the email becomes the only way to influence the decision to open your email immediately upon receipt. Once you have chosen one thought for your letter, go straight to the Subject line and type that thought in.

For example, you send a colleague an email with five questions: four simple questions and one complex question to which the user does not know the answer at once. If you write five questions in one letter, you will wait for the recipient to find the answer to the most difficult question and at the same time will not answer the others. You can also get an answer to 4 easy questions and promise to send an additional answer to the fifth question. And this will never happen, because your letter is already marked as an answer.

However, if you send five separate emails, each containing a question, the recipient will be able to quickly answer all the simple questions and keep a reminder that you need to answer the fifth question, because the individual letter still remains unanswered.

Of course, you may feel stupid to create five letters at once, but you'll be very happy to be able to track the entire conversation on a particular topic in a separate branch later. And you can be sure that the recipient will appreciate your organization and foresight.

A convenient tool to help you save time and be organized in writing emails is mail templates. Depending on your work and the reasons you are writing letters, you may notice that you are sending variants of the same letter several times. You may be serving your customers and answering the same questions over and over again, or you may need to be with your child, but your friends and colleagues continue to write you letters. In any case, no matter what the situation, if you notice that you are writing the same text all the time, it's time to use templates.

I am a big fan of simplifying things as much as possible. Most email services allow you to create templates that you can both edit and send with a single click. If you want to know more about this, a simple Google search will show you how to set up templates that will work for you.

Everything that needs to be personalized (e.g. the name of the recipient, date or other details), I replace with "XXXXXXXX", so that the eye immediately clings to this place and I did not accidentally send a template without personalization. I use a Notepad+ document, not pre-installed templates in outlook or temp mail, because they can be sent without the necessary specifications.

What if you use a link to the feedback form to complain about late delivery? The last thing I would like is for a dissatisfied customer to leave his feedback before I can solve his problem and make him happy again. So I try to write my own letter from my template, depending on the situation. This way, I make a letter out of the template, like any other letter, and I can strictly control its contents. If you want to try to turn your email into a template with your email client, be sure to do so.

Short letters are good for everyone. Now you know how to do it, and you can save up to an hour a day on writing mail and become a real guru in this business.

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