Why Every Email Should Be 5 Sentences Long

Why Every Email Should Be 5 Sentences Long

“Proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness,” entrepreneur-investor-author Guy Kawasaki tells “Less than five sentences is often abrupt and rude, more than five sentences wastes time.”

In this way, the email is like poem. A sonnet maybe, with the way its limitations have a funny way of granting freedom. Or maybe an epic poem, given the fact that we all write a novel’s worth of email every year. But would a missive by any other length read just as sweet?

Not likely, says Kawasaki:

“Long emails are either unread or, if they are read, they are unanswered … Right now I have 600 read but unanswered emails in my inbox.”

Ack. That’s a whole inbox orphanage–clearly Kawasaki is of the who-cares-about-inbox-zero school of messaging.

So how do we stave off our outbox abandonment issues?

By making our emails really, really easy to reply to. By making them, like a fine product, massively simple.

The key is understanding if we’re trying to get our recipient to take some sort of action from the prompt that we give them. If so, that action–and its motivation–needs to be as clear as possible, delivered as cleanly as possible.

Since people are both busy and lazy, they’re “more likely to respond to information requests–whether important or trivial–if they’re easy to address,” as Quartz recently reported. And even if a message is important, if it’s too complex, it won’t get a response.

What we need to do, then, is be like Steve Jobs, David Karp, and Toyota head Akio Toyoda and appreciate the user experience of our five-sentence products.

That way our messages will get read–and replied to.

Hat tip:

[Image: Flickr user Marek Lenik]