How Long a Work Email Should Be?

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How long a work email should be?

Studies indicate that the average work email length is between 50 and 150 words. 50-150 words are equivalent to about one paragraph and up to three.

But those are the average numbers.

I write one-liner emails (5-12 words) all the time. A productive worker should be soundly capable of communicating effectively via email. It all boils down to the purpose and objective of your email.

Emails are a communication platform. An important one, too, since email content can be a crucial reference in your future dealing.

Let’s go back to the question on the length of your email.

There is no one answer to how long a work email should be. Deciding how long is too long or how short is too short is a very subjective matter.

Let’s look at several pointers.

How long a work email should be?

What is the purpose of the email?

Why are you writing this work email? What is the main purpose or objective of it? Some of the purposes can include the following:

  • Introducing yourself to a new business prospect
  • Proposing a new project to your employer
  • Revising an old matter requiring attention
  • Responding to a certain allegation
  • Following up on deadlines

The purpose of your email impacts its length because different messages require specific information to be conveyed to be useful and effective.

If you are introducing yourself or your product/service to a potential business partner, proper structure is required. You will need paragraphs on an intro, an explanation about your product (what it does, how it can help the customer), and a call-to-action (requesting a meeting for a product demo). You might need to write up to 150 words or even slightly longer.

Just remember, the longer your email is, the more structure it needs.

Presenting ideas

If you are presenting a new idea to your colleagues, your email also needs to have substance. In this particular case, chances are your email length will be over 100 words.

But not all details should go into the email content.

A better way is to craft the complete proposal in a separate document (e.g., MS Word, PowerPoint, PDF, etc.) and enclose the document as an attachment in the email. 

Provide a “hook” (e.g., the kind of problems the proposal will solve) in your email content such that the recipient will be intrigued to read through the attachment.

That way, you save your email recipient their precious time reading the email.

Is a long email necessary?

The short answer is not really.

It is not necessary to compose a long email. Emails should be brief and concise and include all the relevant points without wasting unnecessary information.

Be mindful of what you are writing about.

Your goal is to include enough information so that the recipient knows what you want without being too verbose or long-winded.

The sweet spot for email length seems to be about three sentences or less for the average person.

How long a work email should be?

The longer the email, the riskier it can be

In general, the longer the email you are writing, the riskier it gets.

Long email content may cause you to overlook errors in language and information accuracy. For some recipients, reading an email full of errors here and there is a turn-off. They would end up reading the early bit and ignore the rest. Worse, your email will get tossed into the virtual trash bin.

Important stakeholders like a member of the board of directors also have little patience with long email content.

Our inboxes are flooded with messages from colleagues and clients alike, so if we take some time to do something about an email, we better be able to quickly scan what’s being said, right? 

There is always the chance that our recipients might not even read emails that are too long, and instead, they’ll skim through them to get the gist of it.

Think about how you consume information; we tend to go for short bits of content rather than pages and pages worth because our brains can’t process large amounts of data in one sitting, or at least not very quickly. Our attention spans have been shortened because we’re exposed to so many messages throughout the day.

So, how long a work email should be?

While studies indicate that a work email length average is between 50-150 words, you will need to make your own assessment of how long your email should be.

So conclusively, my personal answer is to this very question is: for as long as it needs to be. More importantly, instead of thinking about the length, think instead about how to write an email professionally.

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