Don’t write War and Peace over email.

More than ever, less is more when it comes to words in our email Inbox. Did you know that the average information worker (like you and me) reads the equivalent of a novel every two days? And we read it at lightening speed, scanning it in from a computer screen. Sometimes it is not the volume of emails that we drown in, but the density of some of the notes we get from our colleagues.

When someone writes an email to us that would be ten pages long printed out, we just close the email and say to ourselves, “I’ll read that when I have time.”

The person sending it to you took a great deal of time to write it. You don’t want to swim through it and it takes forever to finally deal with it. This is not good for your relationship or the purpose of the email in the first place.

Today, simple is the new smart – especially at work. For some companies simplicity (in Customer and employee interactions) is a competitive advantage. Part of simplicity is the reduction of information aimed at a target. Fewer words = a better experience for them in communicating with you which = more future attention. Email is far from simple when it comes to conveying complex ideas, emotions and intentions. You would have to write dozens of paragraphs to convey the subtle nuisances of a phone or face-to-face conversation.

Yet, many of us rely too much email to conduct conversations. It’s like we are hiding behind our laptop letting our flying fingers do our talking. When you find that the body of your email cannot fit into the preview pane (Outlook) or a computer screen, pick up the phone and talk to them about it. Academic researchers to technical writers all agree that the shortest distance between two minds is a live conversation. Nothing beats it.

NOTE: This is usually, but not always the case. I like to establish communication preferences with people when I first start to work with them. How do you want me to contact you, phone or email? Do you like short emails with more detailed stuff in phone calls or do you want it all in a note? It is conversation worth having and will improve your business relationship.

For more information on how simplicity is a new competitive advantage in business, read Bill Jensen’s brilliant book Simplicity.