Posted by: kerrywills | April 19, 2013

The art of being succinct

I always tell people who work for me that if they send me a message that I have to scroll to read, then it is too long. In today’s world most people have meetings all day, constant instant messaging and texts, and hundreds of e-mails. Therefore spending a large amount of time on an e-mail that requires scrolling and reading the ‘chain’ on is way to inefficient. People need to learn how to be succinct in their messages to get to the point. There should be just enough information to explain the background and impact with next steps. If it requires lots of information and explanation, then it is probably best to have a meeting instead of sending a small novel.

Some techniques for being succinct in e-mails include…

  • Organize work into categories (e.g. background, impact, options, next steps). This way it doesn’t look like a run-on sentence and the content can be structured
  • Use bullets to call out key points
  • Read the message to look for non-critical content


In the age of twitter I think we should also disable the ability to send long e-mails or forward a chain with more than one or two messages already attached to it. The result may be losing the key messages in all of the noise embedded in the message or not having the recipient read it at all.



  1. I loved the message on the T-shirt!

  2. The behavior you are commenting on is driven by the misguided encouragement for everyone to participate. You know, those PMs who drive meetings by going around the table and expecting everyone to contribute…

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