The Short Answer
Tantum sed Copiosus – Dr. Douglas McFarland
I first heard this phrase as a Sophomore English student at Oglethorpe from my then Department Advisor. It roughly translates to, “of the right size and quality.” He was referring to how I should construct my papers. That no matter what length is assigned, every word and citation should be pregnant with the weight of contemplation and creativity. I am still working to master this approach.
No longer in school, it’s not papers I am struggling to find the balance between length and meaning, but text/instant messages and emails. For me, Form and Function should work in perfect balance in every facet of life. I see email and messaging as generally short communication platforms. Asynchronous in nature and lacking a good method for conveying context and tone. Therefore, I don’t want try to write or read novels through text messaging, emails, or instant messages. At the same time to maintain quality and clarity, I don’t like using, too many emoji, slang, abbreviations or acronyms.
Therefore, I have always been one for very short responses to emails and texts and instant messages. I don’t feel the need to waste words in these on these platforms. One reason has to do with the volume of email and text we get every day and my desire to stay responsive and ahead of them. So, I keep my responses short and to the point. I generally don’t like to go beyond three sentences. Anything more than that and I figure a phone call or face-to-face meeting would do better. This approach along with smart inbox management keeps my unread and total email count pretty close to ZERO daily.
Obama, had three very specific responses to the majority of emails he got, “agree, disagree, or let’s discuss.” He saved his words for his speeches and policy communications. I think he also kept his tweets pretty succinct, direct and meaningful. This approach helps avoid decision fatigue and wasted energy in crafting responses and reading a never end thread of replies. In fact, more conversations should be moved to a 5 minute phone, web, or in-person conversation, especially when the thread goes beyond 6-9 responses. Also, if more people put all their verbose writing skills into creative and sharable content it would probably go a lot further and be more reusable than a duplicitous email thread.
I’ve been told at work and elsewhere that my short and direct style can come across so cold. So, there’s another option I came across this week in an article in Fast Company. The article suggests to reply to most digital communications where you’re asked a direct question with, “Call Me.” The author did it for a week and liked the results. I am going to try it this next week. So, what do you think, are short responses unprofessional and cold? What type of communicator are you? Is this blog post too long for its subject?
What is your response style?