Cut out some fluff
It’s nothing new that I have been trying to simplify my life for the past year or so. Ditching projects, changing my diet, cleaning out a lot of unnecessary physical items and digital data – just keeping everything minimal.
When I saw Jono Hey’s “sketchplanation” titled Cut out some fluff, I had to agree. I would recommend subscribing to his mailing list because he posts a sketchplanation every day, and on various different topics. You’re bound to learn something new within a week or so, or at least enjoy the way he has illustrated the concept.
Looking at what he has drawn, you can see that even just a small edit can make a huge difference. It still gets the message across, but in a more direct way.
I like to apply this concept to writing, in most forms. Blogging is an example, as is narrative and telling a story or writing a book. In my experience, some books have progressed very slowly. Although I never immediately think that a certain part can be left out, I wonder if the author or the editor could have worked with the piece a bit more to keep only the salient information.
Horrendously enough, “keep only the salient information” reminds me of my Bachelors degree, during which we did a lot of intense proofreading and editing of existing documents to condense their content while still keeping them straight to the point. It was something I could link to other subjects I studied in university, and something I applied when I was writing papers and reports. I avoided using extensive vocabulary and academic jargon – a lot of people (myself included!) think that it makes themselves sound smarter when they use bigger words, but the main thing is that you need to get to the point.
Another example I particularly like to apply “cut out some fluff” to is email. A quick Google search can pull up a treasure trove of articles related to “how to write email”. About 90% of those articles will suggest that you keep emails short, like conversation, and get straight to the point. Even the website (Five) Sentenc.es (with variations for four, four, and two) suggests a personal policy of keeping email to five sentences or less, with a snazzy signature to copy and paste:
-------------------------------------------- Q: Why is this email five sentences or less? A: http://five.sentenc.es
I have been known to ramble when I write. I have often written long emails. But here’s the thing about long emails: No one really wants to read them. You receive email in an inbox, and you read them quickly so you can be done with them. They’re not really reading material, not like a novel, not like a newspaper, not even like a blog post. People didn’t always have time to handwrite letters in the 1800s, and certainly not long ones. So when you receive an email in your inbox, the premise is the same.
I used to think that getting to the point in emails – or rather, being frank – made me likely to come across as rude. I like to be polite, and when I am asking questions I don’t like getting straight to the point because it seems like I am only emailing because I want something, like their help or opinion.
But that’s what I want, right?
I was particularly full of hatred towards emails that were a bit like this:
Can you tell me how to style a blockquote in HTML? Thanks!
But that was quite a few years ago. In the workplace, short and quick emails are preferred. In terms of personal email, I will often email friends a quick email with a link to an article they might like, or a funny incident that occurred. If someone tells me an anecdote, I don’t struggle to write a response that is as long as their anecdote, even if it is only two paragraphs. It’s reaction-based – I’ll say, “LOL”, “damn that sucks, I hope you feel better soon!”, or “OK I don’t believe in aliens. And I really don’t think you need to worry about that green glow coming out of your computer… stop freaking out! Are you sure you checked that you didn’t leave your glow worms in there again?”
Regardless. I think I’ve made my point here. There’s no need for me to keep providing examples to prove my point.
Write shorter emails.