Getting to the essence
“If I’d had more time, I’d have written a short letter.” – the classic quote that’s been attributed to Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Blaise Pascal, George S. Kaufman, and many others continues to be applicable, no matter who said it first.
Seth Godin’s blog post, ‘Start with a classified’ has the same message. Of course the original quote provides us with the idea that it takes more care (and hence more time) to write a shorter letter. Seth goes further and gives us a method of getting to the core of what we want to say. By distilling it into a few words, we get to the nub of it. Only then is it useful to start elaborating and adding the extras that will provide colour and context.
Perhaps we’re conditioned by formal education to provide all the information we can, but there is a down side to that. We’re so overwhelmed with information in the e-world we inhabit that people don’t have the time, or I suspect, the inclination to read more than they absolutely have to. I’ve recently provided feedback on a couple of CV’s and I found myself giving the ‘less is more’ advice in both cases. We should apply this thinking to all of our work. Provide the information that is necessary, relevant and useful – but no more.
And perhaps this adds the most value when it comes to emails. At the very least, take the time to re-read your mail and see which words can be cut without changing the essence of the mail. In these days of email overwhelm, its not only considerate to the recipient, it makes your email more likely to be read. Simple as that.