Say What You Want in Three Sentences

How long should email responses be? How long should blog posts be? With some microblogging services, we already have a pre-defined length by which we must subscribe to. Twitter, for instance, gives you a space of only 140 characters. SMS messages, of course, are limited to 160 characters (not counting concatenated or “multi-part” messages).

What about email, then? With todays diminishing attention spans–not to mention those of us who have attention disorders, like myself at times–it probably pays to keep it short and simple when communicating. Be direct to the point, but without losing the essence of your message, and without discarding important details.

If would have it their way, emails should be three sentences long.

Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead. is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be three sentences or less. It’s that simple.

Or two. Or four. Or five. I guess it depends on your preference, but I think the point is that it involves much discipline to keep messages concise, and to the point. Otherwise, rambling on and on might cause your reader to lose focus himself, and lose track of the important things you are bringing forth in that piece of communication.

But do you stand to lose details if your emails are too short? How about blog posts? Will a two-paragraph, 100-word blog post be more effective than a 250-word one with bullet points and headings? I guess it depends on how you write it.

This blog post comes to a grand total of 20 sentences, excluding the block-quoted text. Have I made my point?

6 thoughts on “Say What You Want in Three Sentences

  1. Great tips, many people just aren’t concise enough, I feel that if its a friend more than three sentences are acceptable, but if you are responding to a client; three sentences should be enough to cover all required information.

  2. Many of my emails take the place of personal letters that used to go US Mail to friends and family that are far away. Three sentences in an email would be way too short. I’d have to send them 25 emails a day!

  3. If it weren’t for the article content part of blogging (so search engines could feed off them) I would definitely prefer to keep my posts short and straight to the point. Same goes for emails.

  4. Emails tend to get more and more lengthy as of late, we need to get back to the days of the short messages and more face to face interaction!

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