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How to write short emails [EOM] (pass it on)

Forget the preamble. Nobody reads it. Make them scroll? No chance.

Worse still: they’ll miss the good bits.
Humans began as hunter-gatherers. We filter out what’s commonplace. We instinctively hone in first on things we need. Then we find things we like. Anything else is a distraction. Distraction meant death.

(Now read the last email you sent. Any distractions?)

We’re also farmers. So we latch on to helpful people, tools, and information. And we root out weeds that waste resources like time.

(Now reread your last email. Any better?)

Anything that even looks distracting or time wasting sparks evolutionary fear. So we delete wordy emails ruthlessly. It’s even worth sacrificing a few good bits. Who doesn’t?

So, how low can you go?

Heartfelt pleasantries show we care. Trite ones do nothing at best, ‘Dear Reader’.

Manners, ‘please’. And ‘thank you’, too.

But even those dilute the email’s essence.

Email inboxes are sieves

How much email do you delete unread? Nobody bothers to open or preview every item.

That’s true even if your inbox is your filing system!

Making the subject your point

The most important things are the quickest to say. Evolution makes that knowledge instinctive. Sarah Connor can’t resist The Terminator’s offer:
Come with me if you want to live.

That’s fewer than 100 characters, which is about the subject line length on desktops or laptops.

What about emails on smartphones?

Smartphones make great email filters. They’re always on. So emails show up there first. And at least half of you have a BlackBerry or iPhone, right?

But BlackBerry and iPhone inboxes default to subjects with fewer than 40 characters.

(Now rereread your last email on your smartphone.)

EOM means End Of Message

Google ‘EOM’

Adding ‘[EOM]’ to the end of your subject line means ‘that’s the entire message’. The recipient doesn’t have to open the email.

But ‘[EOM]’ is 6 characters (including the space)! That’s expensive when you’ve only got 40 to play with.

But it does dispel recipients’ fears of distraction and time-wasting. It also rewards them with bonus time. EOM saves people time and tells them you’ve got straight to the point.

If your recipient forwards your email to someone else, they automatically add ‘FW:’. That costs another 4 characters (including the space).

So, you’re left with a mere 30 characters to make your point!

Reservations?

Cutting emails back to 30 characters - all in the subject line – is extreme. If that feels too abrupt for you, first have a go at halving your word-count. If being short feels rude to you, you could reduce pleasantries to just one, heartfelt greeting.

But, is your next email important enough to send as a 30-character subject line?