Keep It Short and Get to The Point

One of the biggest mistakes most students make (including myself) is writing long-winded messages to others.  Our excuse: we have a lot to say or it’s harder to write less. But is that enough to justify our novel-sized emails?  In the age of 140-characters, mobile phones, and short attention spans, we have to reconsider the way we write.

Below are three areas I’ve discovered shorter is always better.

  • Emails: Mobile-optimization and work-styles have changed emails.  People don’t have time to read a lengthy message, especially on their Blackberry or iPhone.  I recently sent a long email to some professionals asking if they’d be interested in an interview program with students.  One pro thankfully called me out on it. Since then, I’ve turned that 10 paragraph message into a one paragraph request.  The response difference has been staggering.
  • Pitches: In PR or elsewhere, pitching can be an extremely important part of your job.  It can be the difference between new business and going out of business.  The key to pitching is brevity: what are you selling and why should I care? That’s all your elevator pitch should be about.  I once pitched a NYTimes food reporter on a food truck with the following message:
Have you ever eaten falafel from a restaurant with guacamole, jalapenos, and tortilla chips?  What if I was to tell you that this new restaurant is also not in a brick and mortar location, but in a recently renovated DHL truck?
If your interested in learning more, I’d love to tell you all about my client.
The best part: 2 minutes after an out-of-office reply, I got a response back:
Send information please.
Had I not gone short, I would have never gotten an answer back (I know this because I wrote a long email a month before and never heard back).
  • Blog Posts: Instead of explaining this one, I’m just gonna show you:
Which one’s better?
The Steve Rubel post is infinitely better than the Starbucks post (can you believe there’s actually two parts?) because it:
a) had a focus where Starbucks didn’t
b) was short and to the point

As a student, we may have tons to say, but remember to think about the person on the receiving end.  If you wouldn’t want to read your message, why would they?

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