1

Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. - Blaise Pascal

English Translation: I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

I am bad at keeping my communication short and efficient. I even had to preface this workplace question with a silly quote, and then I had to write this unnecessary sentence explaining it.

It's easiest for me to just dump all my thoughts on a topic into an email, or into a bug tracking tool (I'm an engineer, as I'm sure many are on this site), but this serves me poorly in two ways:

  1. People don't like to read my emails carefully as they are too long and take a lot of time.
  2. I end up not wanting to write down everything in my head because it takes too long, and then documentation / correspondence is often not well communicated with my leadership.

Perhaps this is just a skill that requires more practice? More specifically, here is my question for the Workplace community:

How can I communicate effectively and efficiently - both with time and with length of communication - with my leadership and my teammates?

I intentionally do not want to edit this post too much, there's plenty of fluff here, including this disclaimer, to illustrate the point.

7
  • @JoeStrazzere I absolutely can write more concisely... by investing more time. But then I get into a place where "investing more time" means I no longer want to communicate, because the time investment is too large. I can and do revise, shorten, blah blah, but when I do that I feel like I spend so much time doing that instead of producing deliverables. – durron597 Sep 30 '16 at 18:49
  • 2
    book - Strunk and White – paparazzo Sep 30 '16 at 18:51
  • 2
    Sometimes the document or email is the deliverable. – Dan Pichelman Sep 30 '16 at 18:52
  • I don't really know why this is receiving down/close votes, can those voting to close explain their reasons? – enderland Sep 30 '16 at 19:08
  • It takes practice and real world experience to really learn this stuff. I think the more you do, the less you can write to explain more. Ask yourself what you need from the person and simply only ask that without explaining or anything. – Dan Sep 30 '16 at 19:21
5

By practicing. Writing efficiently and effectively is a skill like any other. If you're not proof reading your communications for readability, spelling, grammar and efficiency then you're not doing it properly.

So practice, concentrate, and improve.

Initially this will take a lot of time and you may be rereading and editing several times. But as you improve you will start fixing things as you go, the way you write will change, and you become more conscious of the best ways to make salient points. But like any other skill you need to make the effort to learn it.

3

Other than the practice part, it's important to realize how people consume electronic communication. Practicing helps make the process faster as well.

Overwhelmingly, people do not read everything. At best, they might skim it, if you're lucky they process the title, and at worst they'll read the title.

People make a naive assumption that everyone else processes information just the same as them. The more words, the less they read.

A huge issue is identifying:

  • Is email the best medium for communication?
  • If so, is my email quickly understandable

A good exercise is to take time to read an email you write and try to understand how long it takes to read, process, and ultimately decide on the next steps. People generally way underestimate this.

If you send an email that is 1000 words long (I've seen this from my management....) it takes on average, over 5 minutes to read. That is ignoring ANY time spend processing and actually doing anything with.

And generally speaking, if you need to communicate a lot of information via email, your goal isn't to have people read it, consume it, and process it. It's for an "FYI" -- not "you need to read this now. and remember."

2

I am a wordy person, too. But I can communicate pretty effectively in emails by following this process.

Start with the actions that you need taken as a result of the emails. If the email goes to more than one person, make sure you say who has to do what. Add a due date.

Summarize the issue(s) in the body of the email in order of priority.

Put the wordy details in a document that you attach.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .