Tag Archives: Editing

The Email Cliff

1 May

If you’ve had someone skim your email and click delete without reading it all, you’ve experienced this fact firsthand: our readers are only willing to give us a certain amount of attention before moving on.  The more words you write, the harder it is to get people to read them

 Illustrating that statement might look something like this:

Email not

This is close…but not exactly how readership works.

But that’s not really how readership works.  It’s not a linear function, where increasing your blog post or advertising email by a certain number of words means that you’ll lose a predictable number of readers.

How does it work?  Have you ever decided to read or not read an online article based on its page length?  Or received an email at work and condemned it to some buried folder after reading 1/3 of it because you had to scroll for days to see all the text?

At some word count, at some unfortunate sweet spot, our audience decides that our written message is too long to engage with and stops reading.

At this word count or page length, the majority of our audience clicks delete or x’s out the brower window, creating a steep, ugly decline in readership.  I call this steep decline the email cliff:

Ouch...your audience fell off the cliff, but you're the one hurting.

Ouch…your audience fell off the cliff, but you’re the one hurting.

For all of us that want to be read instead of deleted like spam, the email cliff means we should do two things:

1) An extra sentence doesn’t necessarily mean losing a small number of readers.  It might push the majority of your readers over the edge of the email cliff.  That’s why when we’re debating whether we need another bullet point or sentence, we must scrutinize whether that extra bit is really needed.  

2) Different audiences have different cliffs.  Your mom might read pages and pages of an email before she decides to stop reading.  Colleagues will probably jump off the cliff sooner.  And potential customers?  They tumble off the cliff after a paragraph or two (if we’re lucky).  We need to think hard about the audience we’re writing to and craft a message accordingly.

Email Cliff 4

If you think about the cliff, you’ll be a click-through champion.  And more importantly, the important things you have to say will be heard!

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