The Short Answer…
As long as you need to communicate clearly and succinctly. For most, this is only a couple of paragraphs.
The Longer Answer…
Often, picking up the phone and discussing the issues at hand is much more efficient and effective than typing endless commentary that may not get to the heart of the topic or create more questions than provide answers.
It is a rare talented communicator that can hold a reader’s attention and write effective long emails. Email is communicating with the written word, after all! This is a skill I work on daily (and I hope you are too).
Many times emails that are too long do not hold the reader’s attention, causing them to scan for the details or answers they seek. And by doing so, possibly missing essential information.
I have even caught myself doing this when pressed for time, and a long email with huge paragraphs arrives in my inbox. This is where brevity and white space are your friends!
Email Composition Tips
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind for those, the majority, that scan:
Keeping your replies to the point is where down-editing comes into play. Removing what doesn’t apply and only commenting directly on what does, minimizes confusion and allows the email to remain focused.
Use bullet points to convey your thoughts in a short, sweet, and concise manner. Don’t worry about having to know code to create bulleted points, do what I do — use “=>” before each point. Then, hit enter twice after each topic to space things out and provide some white space.
Concise and To-The-Point
The key is to think about what you want to accomplish with your email and stay on target. In most cases, if your email goes on longer than a handful of paragraphs, it may be best to consider another alternative.
For example, what I do when a client needs a lot of information from me, I’ll include links to the areas on my site that cover the info they seek rather than repeating it in an email. Or I’ll create a PDF and have a short and to-the-point email noting what the attached document contains.
A recent study has reflected that email can cause a decrease in productivity by up to 40%! Keeping your emails short, brief and concise helps both sides be more efficient and spend less time emailing!