Telegrams were the 19th century version of Twitter – you paid by the character, so economy required brevity. There’s an old joke about an angry telegram reading: “Screw you. Strong letter to follow.”
Outside of Twitter, it’s unavoidable – sometimes you have to write long emails. If you have action items or essential information buried in them, you’re taking a few risks:
- The essential items will never be read, or will be forgotten.
- The person you’re writing to may be irritated because they have to trawl through your whole email message to figure out what you’re really saying or asking.
An easy way to fix this is a short “TL;DR” sentence at the beginning. (It stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read.” Originally intended as a criticism, this acronym is now used to convey a super-quick summary. If you’re writing to your boss or your boss’s boss – or really anyone who’s busy – the TL;DR communicates respect for the person’s time – and improves the likelihood of your point getting across.