When it comes to emails, I tend to be pretty wordy.
I live with an intense fear of coming off as too direct or cold, and there’s something about all of those extra words, niceties, and (embarrassingly) exclamation points that make me sound a little warmer and friendlier.
But, here’s the thing: I’m ultimately wasting my own time—along with the time of the person reading my message.
Nobody wants to spend their precious mental energy wading through fluff in order to get to your point. So, if you have a soft spot in your heart for small talk and flowery language like I do, how can you manage to strip down your own messages to the stuff that really matters?
Here are four actionable tips that’ve helped me:
1. Cut Out Filler Words and Phrases
Chances are high that you’re sprinkling filler phrases into your emails.
Don’t believe me? Type out an email to a colleague and look at how many times you’ve included the words “I think.” While that helps to soften your language, it’s totally unnecessary. It’s assumed that this is what you think, since you’re the one writing the message.
The same rule holds true for a word like “just.” We all pepper it in here and there. But, in most cases, it could be cut out completely.
When it comes to filtering out any other clutter that could be hiding, there’s one more tip from my former journalism instructor that still sticks with me: Look for where you’ve included commas. Many times, they follow a qualifier that you can delete. You know, things like “Needless to say,” “However,” “Indeed,” or even that “You know” that I used to begin this very sentence.
2. Use Bullet Points
Including the necessary context is one thing. But, especially in emails, it’s tempting to go overboard and stuff your message full with all sorts of irrelevant details.
This is why making use of bullet points can be so helpful—they force you to be far more concise and direct with your writing. Challenge yourself to identify if there are any paragraphs that would be better turned into a shortened list.
While you don’t want your entire email to be a seemingly endless roster of bullet points, breaking some larger chunks of text down can help to make your note shorter (and far more organized).
3. Refer People to Relevant Documents
Every now and then, the information you’re desperately trying to cram into your email has already been recorded elsewhere—whether that’s in a document, a presentation, a website, or something else entirely.
There’s no need for you to reinvent the wheel. So, if you can dig up an additional resource that already shares all of that need-to-know information, refer your recipient to that—rather than trying to summarize it.
4. Skip the Small Talk
If you’re anything like me, you took one look at this tip and thought Are you kidding me? Skipping those pleasantries will surely turn me into the office monster!
I get where you’re coming from—prefacing each of my messages with a friendly question seems like the polite thing to do. But, more often than not, it goes completely unanswered anyway. It’s that totally unnecessary part that most people just gloss right over.
Feel free to keep in a quick and pleasant “I hope you’re doing well!” However, it’s probably best to hit the backspace button on anything beyond that.