The most common feedback I offer people when I edit their email messaging to their constituents is:
- Make it shorter
- Make it scannable (more on this later)
- Make it more about the recipient than the writer
Please, make it shorter. Once you have a draft, plan to edit with a cleaver, not an exacto knife. Cut whole sentences and paragraphs. Decide what you’re going to focus on and cut whatever doesn’t fit into this one piece of communication.
When you craft a shorter email (let’s say, under 400 words), it shows the reader that you’ve made some decisions, that you’ve set your priorities. On a basic level, many readers respond well to decisiveness, when they get the sense that we’re not reading someone who’s working out their thinking right in front of our eyes.
Don’t ask yourself how much you have to say about a topic. Ask yourself how much people are going to be willing to read. People with overflowing inboxes, and children, and pets and hobbies and interests. Even if they love your message, they are not going to want to spend more than ten seconds with it.
There are so many great lists that only send short emails (NOI’s Tip of the Day springs to mind, along with MoveOn.org, those hundreds of Barack Obama fundraising emails that clogged your email inbox over 2012, and many other large-scale and popular campaigns).
So think about what one point you can make in an email, make it, then hit send. You’ll see the difference.
Note to the reader: at one point, this post was over 400 words long, because it included points about scannability, but I cut that out for another post.