Is it possible to write five sentences per email or how about three or two?

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I first heard about this website that encourages short emails when I saw it in the signature line from a social media company’s CEO:

Q: Why is this email five sentences or less?

A: http://five.sentenc.es

The website gives you an explanation of the project and some copy to add to your email signature if you are up to the challenge.

I thought this would be easy and added the five-sentence disclaimer to my emails.

My emails are pretty to the point already and that should be easy. It wasn’t. I started overthinking my emails. That seemed short and is actually six sentences. Ugh. #fail

Of course, it’s more of a guideline but a good one to keep in mind. Long emails. Especially ones with long run-on sentences in never-ending paragraphs are terrible. They are even worse when an important take-away was embedded in one of those.

“You didn’t see my request? I sent it last week in one of my 2,993-word emails.”

No I didn’t. Sending emails doesn’t mean they were received. And even less that they were understood and that tasks were added to a to-do list.

Long emails are good from time to time to document something in a project that was already discussed. They are not good to have a lengthy (and collaborative) exchange.

People read things incorrectly. There’s no body language to read intent. Add to that people who pick the wrong words and long emails are a mess.

“You are so nice in person. Why are your emails so prickly?”

“They aren’t.”

“Um yes.”

So I will give the short email thing a try and see how that works. I think that means that if an email needs to be over five sentences that I should finish it in a Google Doc and email the link. Ha. Just kidding. #cheater

When an email must be over five sentences it likely is a sign that we should pick up the phone or go see the recipient in person.

So there you have it. It’s a decent idea, I think, and I’ll give it a try.

If an email absolutely must be longer, may I suggest some ideas to make it more readable:

Use bullet points

Bold key concept

Sub headlines to break up content

Highlight people’s names when there are to-dos.

Paragraph breaks are your friend

In other words, use digital marketing content best practices in email.

Of course, some of us need to consider the positive of short emails. I still see mobile signatures that say: “Excuse the brevity. Sent from mobile.”

No reason to apologize for either of those. I’m writing this on mobile – as usual.

Brevity is great when it gets the point across and shares what needs to be shared. We’ll see if it can be done routinely in five sentences or less.