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:
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 Tip 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.
Email Writing Tip 2: Write concisely: 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.
Email Writing Tip 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 have been 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 goalsmust 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 paragraph from an email is very redundant:
Email Writing Tip 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.
Email Writing Tip 5: Don’t write the obvious in your email
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.
Email Writing Tip 6: Eliminate word combinations in email 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|
|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|