I value brevity. You have to know exactly what you want to say in order to be brief. This is upfront effort on the part of the writer/speaker in order to maximize the benefit for the reader/listener.

Not all short writing embodies this spirt, however. Take for example forwarding an email with the simple interrogative, “thoughts?” This is a case of not respecting the reader’s time, and it is typically done only downward in the hierarchy. It is often lazy. When I do it, I am being lazy.

Before departing work today, I wrote a quick email to ask for some perspective on a topic. I wrote it in a few minutes, but I edited it for an hour. I changed a general plea for help into two specific questions. I reworded sentences, and then I reordered them. I stared at the screen deep in thought, and I read aloud to myself. The final message will take the recipient about a minute to read (I timed it), which is the whole point. His time is more important than mine in this case.

As I was driving home, I wished I could just dash off these sorts of messages. I think this wrong though. With practice I will write quicker, but this will just allow me to edit longer. With practice I will be able to edit quicker, but this will just allow me to go through more revisions before I have to hit “send.” When I get better, the final product will be better, but it will never be quick.

Sorry this post is so long. I didn’t have time to make it shorter.