Welcome to 2022: everyone is busier than ever, asked to read more emails, messages, memos, articles, books— and yes, blog posts (even this one!)— than ever before. Who has time to read all that?
According to the new book Smart Brevity, from the co-creators of Axios News, the answer is that almost nobody is actually reading every email in their inbox in full. According to research the authors cite in the book, the typical person spends just 26 seconds on average reading a story or update. No wonder that great, important point you used to conclude your email was ignored! The title of this post even predicts you may not finish reading this entire post while you read it as you wait for your latte.
This new book claims to have a technique that helps your voice stand out from all the noise. I decided to read it and find out for myself.
The format for this technique is straightforward:
- Start with a “tease” or headline to grab the attention of the reader.
- Craft a strong first sentence.
- Share context to explain why it matters
- Leave the choice for the reader to go deeper at the end, saving that information for last.
WHY IT MATTERS: As a lawyer, I spend all day communicating or reading communications—maybe you do, too.
- I write contracts, I draft new trademark applications, I send emails—lots of opportunities to communicate well, or not.
- If I don’t communicate in a way that keeps my clients engaged, I am not doing my job to be their best advocate.
THE BIG PICTURE: The authors emphasize simplicity, readability, and directness.
- You may have noticed that this post has transitioned more into the style described here—admittedly, I’m still working on nailing it. According the authors, bullet points rule!
- The book includes a great suggestion from venture investor Chris Sacca: write your whole email or letter, then go back and make the first two to three sentences say all of what you wrote below. “It’s often the only part that gets read!” Sacca says.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I found reading this book to be an insightful exercise in improving my communication, and maybe it can be for you too. Why?
- It’s designed to work for many people in many different professions or situations.
- According to the authors, most readers usually take away one, maybe two things from anything they read. If you make that one thing clear from the beginning, you get to choose what the reader takes away, not them.
- It teaches pragmatism and efficiency in communication. Who among us couldn’t benefit from that? If you try it out, let me know if it works for you, too!