We’re at a point in time when teams have access to more good information than ever before and — mixed right in with it — just as much distracting junk.
- Why it matters: Over 70% of employees admit they aren’t reading or engaging with the emails their company sends. Their time is stretched, and too much information is flooding their inbox every day.
That’s inefficient for everyone. You’re drafting details that don’t get read. And when information is urgently needed — to spur growth or make quick-turn decisions — it’s 10 days back in an overlooked email, and you have to answer all the same questions again.
- The obligation is on us, as communicators, to sort through what’s in front of us, raise the bar on what’s worthy of our colleagues’ time, and only share what helps them stay informed and productive.
Smart Brevity® is the methodology we use at Axios — internally and externally — to create hierarchy and efficiency in our comms and keep busy readers engaged.
We’ve doubled and even tripled open rates, and cut read time by 50%, with the help of a few principles:
1. Pick information with impact: Start with the updates that matter beyond today, like new policies or competitive insights. Prioritize only what’s worth your readers dropping what they’re doing to read what you sent as soon as it lands.
- You’ll become the trusted source of essential information.
2. Write for smart readers: Picture one smart, curious person in your audience. Find any context, background or details they know — then cut it. Elevate what is interesting or actionable, and quickly explain why this update will matter to them.
- Your emails get opened right away because folks know it’s worth their time.
3. Meet them where they are: Give readers anything they need in the body of what you’re sending. They shouldn’t have to — and often won’t — bounce back and forth between dozens of links. Keep information brief, conversational and to the point, and they’ll stay engaged a lot longer.
- Your updates are efficient. Colleagues are willing to invest a few minutes in them.
4. Keep copy scannable: University research has shown long walls of text literally make readers feel sad. Use short paragraphs to break up ideas, bullets and bolding for tangible anchor points, and white space to give readers moments of rest.
- Your readers get what they need, right away, with enough energy to move on to what’s next.
Our promise to teammates is simple: We won’t waste your time or insult your intelligence. That’s what readers are hungry for, and it’s what cuts through at work. “If you can communicate better,” says Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, “people fundamentally make better decisions.”
Emily Inverso is director of content for Axios HQ – Axios. This article is in partnership with Axios.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios