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Tip of the Week: Communicating with Busy People

January 29, 2024, The Association

Sent an important email and no one responded? Next time, use fewer words.

In his 30-minute webinar on The Science of Corresponding with Busy People, Harvard Professor Todd Rogers shared the number-one principle of writing emails to busy people (that’s pretty much anyone you’re emailing at work).

Use fewer words.

By reducing the time it takes someone to read your message from, say, one minute to thirty seconds, said Rogers, you will have done a kind act to the reader. “It is unkind to burden the reader with extra time because you were unwilling to edit it.”

Rogers shared an experiment in which he sent out an email asking folks to take a survey. He split the recipients in half–3,500 got the original ask, and 3,500 got a version that was shortened by half.

The shorter one almost doubled the response rates.

Rogers and his team at Harvard conducted multiple experiments like this, with everything from email to text messages, resulting in the same bottom line:

Using fewer words is a way to get people to be more likely to read your content and respond to it. The next time you write an email, scan before sending and see what you can leave out while including the most important info.

For Rogers’ four other principles of communicating with busy people, listen to the recorded webinar.

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