The more words in your email sentences, the more likely it is that readers will forget or distort the meanings of some of the words. Another consequence of using too many words in your email is that readers become mentally fatigued and bored with the text. Reading words, interpreting their meanings, and combining the words to form a whole message take time and energy.

The following paragraph from an email contains too many words for the message:

The first main prevention method that can help our company eliminate employee theft is to perform pre-employment screening of all applicants for positions with our company. This can be a major aid to our company. Which screening technique used in the hiring process is a very important decision because it will either decrease the amount of theft or even increase it if we are not careful in hiring. We need to hire applicants for positions who have the proper work skills required for the positions and for being successful in the jobs, and applicants who have job-related values in areas such as integrity, service, and safety to ensure that there is less chance that they will engage in employee theft. To ensure this, we need to use pre-employment screening techniques that identify job candidates who possess the qualities of integrity, service, and safety, as demonstrated in their past job performance.

The same message is conveyed in this single, short sentence:

The first method of eliminating employee theft in our company is to screen applicants so we hire candidates who have the required work skills, as well as integrity, service orientation, and concern for safety.

All of the words eliminated from the longer email paragraph are redundant or unnecessary. The original paragraph about employee theft presented above contains 150 words. The revised sentence contains 33 words, a 78 percent reduction. That reduces the writer’s time in preparing the message by 78 percent. It also requires 78 percent less reader time and results in 78 percent less opportunity for the reader to become confused while reading the email. Imagine how wonderful it would be if some of the dry, confusing emails we all are obligated to read were reduced by 78 percent. A 2-page email would become less than a half a page, making it easier to read in less time with no loss of information!

You can write concise emails that have impact because of the precise focus the wording has. The following writing training tips will help you.

Email Writing Skill 1:
Have an outline of your email’s main ideas in your mind.

Always have an outline of your email’s main ideas in your mind and stick to it. Include only the information relevant to the email outline.

Ask, “Is all the information necessary?”

As you plan to write information and after you have finished the email, ask, “Is all the information necessary?” “Can the reader achieve my goals without some of the information?” As you write your email, look for places you can eliminate unnecessary and superfluous information.

More on preparing for your writing . . .

Email Writing Skill 2: 
Eliminate deadwood words.

Unnecessary words in email are deadwood. Eliminating them will not affect the information in the email, but will reduce the time and energy the reader must expend to interpret the information. Here is the paragraph from an email about employee theft with deadwood words crossed out.

The first main prevention activity that can help our company eliminate employee theft is to perform pre-employment screening of all applicants for positions with our company. This can be a major aid to our company. Which screening technique used in the hiring process is a very important decision because it will either decrease the amount of theft or even increase it if we are not careful in hiring. We must hire applicants for positions who have the proper work skills required for the positions and to be successful in the jobs, and applicants who have job-related values in areas such as integrity, service orientation, and concern for safety to ensure that there is less chance .

After eliminating the deadwood, this is the resulting text:

The first activity that can help our company eliminate employee theft is pre-employment screening. We must hire applicants who have the skills to be successful in the jobs and who have integrity, a service orientation, and a concern for safety.

The passage is much easier to read. After deleting the deadwood, the author would reword the sentences to make them mechanically correct.

More on writing concisely . . .

Email Writing Skill 3:
Eliminate redundancies in your email.

Business writers often say the same thing twice in their email, changing the wording so the second iteration sounds like it is new information, but it isn’t. See if you can identify the redundancies in this example from an email:

Courage is one characteristic a follower must possess to help the organization achieve its goals. More specifically, a successful follower who helps achieve organization goals must have the courage to assume responsibility, serve, challenge, participate in transformation, and leave. These are five activities that a follower must be able to perform.

The redundancies are crossed out in this version of the paragraph:

Courage is one characteristic a follower must possess to help the organization achieve its goals. More specifically, a successful follower who helps achieve organization goals must have the courage to assume responsibility, serve, challenge, participate in transformation, and leave if necessary. These are five activities that a follower must be able to perform.

This is what the paragraph will be in the email when the sentences are combined into one sentence:

To help the organization achieve its goals, a successful follower must have the courage to assume responsibility, serve, challenge, participate in transformation, and leave if necessary.

This sample from an email is very redundant:

Since the year 1990, our company has experienced real growth from a well-designed marketing program. The marketing program has resulted in an expansion in three critical areas. It resulted in the development of new products, increases in sales, and the hiring of six new employees.

The author of these sentences is wasting reader time. “Experienced real growth” is the same as “expansion” and “new products, increases in sales, and the hiring of six new employees.” The writer should have combined the sentences to keep the meaning, but eliminate the redundant statements:

Since 1990, the marketing program has resulted in the development of new products, increases in sales, and hiring six new employees.

More on eliminating redundancies . . .

Business Writing Guideline Email Writing Skill 4:
Combine sentences in your email to eliminate unnecessary words.

Streamline your email by combining the sentences to make as few sentences as you can. Your objective isn’t to make the writing shorter, but that will happen. By reducing the number of words and sentences in your email, you are helping the reader understand more easily.

However, be sure to make the sentences simple and straightforward. Don’t use “and,” “which,” and other constructions that make the sentence longer. If the sentence starts to become complex, make two sentences.

Don’t let a paragraph in your email turn out like this:

Courage is one characteristic a follower must possess to help the organization achieve its goals, but more specifically, a successful follower, one who helps achieve organization goals, must have the courage to assume responsibility, serve, challenge, participate in transformation, and leave if necessary, five activities that a follower must be able to perform.

The writer combined sentences, but the resulting large sentence is awful. It still contains the redundancies and deadwood, stacked so densely the reader will need a machete to get through it. Unfortunately, this is the way many business emails are written.

More on combining sentences . . .

Email Writing Skill 5:
Don’t write the obvious in your email writing.

This paragraph from an email states the obvious, over and over again:

Moving the Graphics Department to the other building has resulted in more space for Accounting. Expanding the size of Accounting employee work areas will give them more room in which to work. That will mean more room for their workstations, supplies, and all of the tools office workers need to use to perform their jobs successfully. A larger work area will make working more pleasant for them. I propose that we expand the size of Accounting’s work areas.The author of these sentences is wasting reader time. It is much too obvious that “expanding the size of employee work areas will give them more room in which to work.” It isn’t so they can play racquetball. Obviously, if they have more room, the room will be for their workstations, supplies, and other tools. And obviously, if they have a larger work area, working will be more pleasant.

Here is the email message without stating the obvious:

Moving the Graphics Department to the other building has resulted in more space for Accounting. I propose that we expand the size of the Accounting staff’s work areas to give them more room to work.

Readers don’t mind if the writer occasionally states the obvious in an email, but some writers fill their business documents with such statements:

Our company is losing money every year from inaccurate data being entered into systems and copied from one database to another, and management is very unhappy with the problem. That money could be put to use in expanding the company or attracting qualified workers or a hundred other worthwhile activities. Any other expenditure would be better than losing money due to inaccurate data. Inaccurate data is simply a matter of error somewhere in the system. Data is entered, stored, and copied to other databases, and somewhere along the way someone has done something to make the data inaccurate. This report contains a proposal for eliminating data-entry errors.

All the text after “one database to another” is so obvious it doesn’t help the reader understand the writer’s point at all. It just takes up space and reader time. Of course management is unhappy with the problem; of course the money could be used elsewhere; of course inaccurate data results from someone’s error someplace.

Here is the same paragraph with the obvious deleted:

Our company is losing money from inaccurate data being entered into systems and copied from one database to another. This report contains a proposal for eliminating data-entry errors.Review your email to be sure you aren’t writing information so obvious it isn’t worth the space it takes up.

More on eliminating writing concisely . . .

Email Writing Skill 6:
Eliminate word combinations in email writing that contain redundancies or deadwood

Some word combinations are common in email, but contain at least one word that is redundant or deadwood. Reduce these combinations to as few words as you can.

8:00 a.m. in the morning = 8:00 a.m.
advanced ahead = advanced
at this point in time = now
basic fundamentals = fundamentals
both together = both
brief in duration = brief
bring to a resolution = resolve
bring to an end = end
consensus of opinion = consensus
cooperate together = cooperate
do a study = study
each and every = every
enclosed herein = enclosed
for the month of July = for July
for the purpose of = to
for the sum of = for
give a promotion = promote
give a response = respond
have a tendency to = tend
have an ability to = can
hold a conference = confer
hold a meeting = meet
hopeful optimism = optimism
important essentials = essentials
in the event that = if
irregardless = regardless
just exactly = exactly
make a decision = decide
make a recommendation = recommend
make changes in = change
make progress toward = progress toward
make reductions = reduce
merge together = merge
mutual cooperation = cooperation
on the occasion of = on
plan in advance = plan
prior to the start of = before
provide a summary of = summarize
reduce down = reduce
resume again = resume
seems apparent = seems
still continue = continue
take action = act
take into consideration = consider
true facts = facts
ultimate end = end
until such time as = when

More on writing concisely . . .

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