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Written by The Mezzanine Group
on December 16, 2011

Because The Mezzanine Group’s clients are so varied – we work with large corporations to small family-owned businesses and in industries ranging from digital media to financial services to health care – we see all sorts of communications styles. Increasingly, though, we’re seeing a trend towards shorter communications. With so many of us handling email on smartphones – even if we are arm’s length from a computer – emails are written with the smaller screen in mind, and content is more often included in the body of an email rather than as an attachment. I definitely still see the style which treat emails more like classic business letters, but I find more people are getting more efficient in email communications.

Lately I ran across a couple of concepts floating around online which are looking to make this kind of economy with emails even more widespread, as we all struggle with volume.

The first is the idea of putting EOM, for “End Of Message,” at the end of the subject line of the email to signify that there is no further content in the email itself. This is essentially treating emails as text messages – recognizing that we mostly read emails either in a preview pane or on a smartphone. It makes it easier to process a one-sentence email, because we know that’s all there is to it and don’t have to click to open it. For this to really take root, it will probably require a couple of large and influential companies to adopt it as standard practice so a critical mass of people recognize the acronym. Reportedly the now-ubiquitous “FYI” only arose in 1959, in a Twilight Zone episode, but if EOM takes that long to catch on, technology will have changed and we’ll probably be communicating telepathically…

The second is the idea that all emails should be five sentences or fewer. This came from a designer called Mike Davidson, and he noticed that he was replying to emails based on how quickly he could write the response, rather than how important the emails were. So he introduced this policy of brevity, which he explains in his email signature. And now, he reports, “before I even give my response, I already know it’s going to be five sentences max, so there is little reason to procrastinate about it.”

Both concepts, though, have embedded within them an added discipline – if you can’t compress your email communication into either just the subject line or five sentences, perhaps email isn’t the best medium for you to be tackling this particular issue. It’s time to get old-fashioned about it – pick up the phone or have an in-person meeting. And that, more than anything else, I think would do wonders for increasing our collective effectiveness with email.

How do you manage your email traffic? How do you wish others would manage their emails they send to you? How are you changing the ways you read and write emails, if you are not doing so on a computer as often as you used to?

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