How to Keep Emails Short

Close up of computer keyboard.
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Long emails can look intimidating, and a long sequence of long paragraphs, possibly including long run-on sentences that do not seem to stop but do not seem to go anywhere either — sentences filled with extraneous words that add little to the meaning but serve to confuse with multifaceted and sometimes conflicting possible interpretations —, can make the recipient read less than if the message had been only, uh, about 3 sentences — three witty, concise and precise sentences — long.

(If you did not read the preceding paragraph, don't worry.)

Keep Emails Short

That is why it is usually a good idea to

  • keep emails as short as possible.

Of course, this is not to mean that you should cut your messages at any price.

Write as Much as Necessary

Write as long and as much as is necessary and appropriate. It is more important for business emails to be succinct.

Personal emails can be flowery and long-winded. For clarity, fewer and simpler words are still better.

Use Bullet Points

If you do have much to write:

  • Break your message into bullet points.
  • Begin each point with a concise summary of the action you want to be taken.
  • Make sure important information is not hidden in your message's or any bullet point's meat.

One Action per Message

Do not lump together anything you need or want to tell a recipient into one message. In particular:

  • Start a new message for each major action you request from the recipient.

    This makes it easier for the recipient to get their email handled and the necessary actions completed. By setting a precedent, chances are they'll adopt the same method for messages to you — and you'll have an easier time ticking off emails, too.

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