[EDIT: Acknowledgement: This blog entry was totally inspired by my not doing something a colleague asked me to, due to his request being unclear. I have come to realize that I wrote this entry in order to rationalize why that’s his fault and not mine.]
I realized this a zillion times when working in Corporatetown, and to a lesser extent while working in Civil Servantville: formulate all written communication to read as efficiently as possible.
The consequence of tedious messages is that people don’t read what you write. No matter how important, urgent or valuable your message may be, it will often be lost.
I was already pretty big on word economy, but this new understanding compounded it. The axiom carried over most noticeably into my formatting. I started using a lot more bulletpoints and unconventional spacing, even bold letters, headings and tables, to convey my thoughts.
Unfortunately this realization influenced my reading habits as well. I have become somewhat ADD. When I am not seeing compelling-enough ideas, I actually lose patience and often stop reading or skip to the next section.
Practically speaking, that translates to a loss of respect. You sent me this long, detailed email, but I am not going to read it carefully because it takes too long. I am not saying I think less of such writers, but I am saying that I don’t really listen to them.
Well actually, I guess I do literally “think less” of them; at least I think less about what they’re trying to communicate.
One coordinator I currently work with writes long-winded stuff. He is a language guy, but he doesn’t seem to consider that however well-worded they are, his emails are still tedious because I am pressed for time. Even when I read the whole thing, I find I forget a lot of what he tells me. Better just to save them for later as reference.
I think he also writes this way because we don’t hold meetings, so he has to fit in a lot of information. Actually, that’s one lesson from this situation… You could maybe summarize it as, “If you can’t write your message succinctly, communicate it orally.” Maybe I could save myself some exasperation by stopping by to see him more frequently.
That’s a nice counterpoint to what I mentioned earlier, about so much business being transacted in writing these days.