Helping Creative People Create

5 Sentence Emails

by glen

five sentence emails

Mike Davidson is fed up with lengthy, open-ended email that takes waaaay too long to send an adequate reply. His beef boils down to the fact that email can be downright unfair.

More than any other medium in the world, the time commitment difference between sender and receiver is huge. For instance, if you call me on the phone and we chat for 10 minutes, that’s 10 minutes of your time and 10 minutes of my time. If you write me a handwritten letter and I write you one back, that’s maybe 30 minutes of your time and 30 minutes of my time. If we exchange text messages, that’s 10 seconds from you and 10 seconds from me. But with email, often times the sender will ask two or three open-ended one sentence questions which elicit multi-paragraph answers. In these cases, the sender spends one minute and the receiver is asked, implicitly, to spend maybe an hour.

So, instead of doing nothing about it, Mike created a revolutionary simple web 2.0 Old School website with his personal policy of sending email responses in 5 sentences or less. Then he cleverly adds this statement to his email signature:

Q: Why is this email 5 sentences or less?
A: http://five.sentenc.es

Brilliant! Oh, and what if you think 5 sentences is just too long? Try http://four.sentenc.es, http://three.sentenc.es, or http://two.sentenc.es.

Take that, email.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Wango July 28, 2007 at 12:37 pm

This is a silly concept that needs to be ignored.

Shorter communication is not automatically better communication. In fact, the attidudes expressed in this post are more likely a barrier to communication than a bridge.

If the autohor is too damn important to communicate with people, then he ought to go live in a cave. We need more communicators, less communication snobs.

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Wange is an idiot August 3, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Wango you are an idiot

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Wango August 3, 2007 at 4:09 pm

>>> Wango you are an idiot.

Another great communicator on this site!

Curtness, nastiness may be to the point, but there is no politeness in it.

Real communication requires courtesy above everything, including the number of sentences in your emails.

I think the flamer demonstrates this important point.

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Isaac August 9, 2007 at 11:43 am

Courtesy is a requirement always. However, courteous brevity is best.
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter” – T.S Eliot

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Meg September 1, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Since I receive insanely long e-mails, I like this idea, but shouldn’t it read “five sentences or fewer,” not “five sentences or less.”

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Vince September 20, 2007 at 12:00 pm

I got here after listening to a 43 folders talk that Merlin Mann gave on the concept of “inbox zero”. That + 5 Sentences = I may finally be able to wrangle the monster that my email has become. Now to join a verbosity support group…and Wango, may I suggest that you reconsider your position? I love words, and that is just what often prevents me from getting back to people via email in a timely manner. The perfectionist in me wants to compose a letter to each person I write to. This system just might be the ticket to actual communication. I am sick of feeling like a chump when it comes to email.

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