In a world in which we are constantly bombarded by information—be it educational or advertorial, useful or useless—it seems we need a way to deal with it. Uncluttering has become a way of life. Numerous books and blogs have been written, TV shows produced, and experts—those who are better at cleaning, clearing and organizing than the rest of us—are speaking on this latest buzzword and explaining how to unclutter our lives. Not only does uncluttering refer to the material items in our homes, offices and cars, but to our schedules, entertainment and communication as well.
brev·i·ty: shortness of duration; especially: shortness or conciseness of expression
In an article on www.lifehack.org, Leon Ho reports that long emails have a tendency to confuse readers more than short ones. He gives five reasons to justify his opinion:
- More words have a higher probability to make errors in message delivery.
- Fewer words offer a greater chance for recipients to digest the idea completely.
- We use more vivid words in fewer words.
- We don’t run around the circle with fewer words—we cannot, we are trapped by the word limit. We have to be precise and hit the point with that restriction.
- People spend less time to read fewer words. More time for comprehension.
Ho proposes that the body of all emails should be fewer than 20 words, and the subject should contain no more than 10.
Another example comes from Guy Kawasaki. In his blog, “How to Change the World: A Practical Blog for Impractical People,” Kawasaki proposes that no email should be more than five sentences: “All you should do is explain who you are, what you want, why you should get it and when you need it by.”
Brevity is not only a suggestion for emails these days, but for everything from media reviews to memoirs. Take, for example, the four-word film reviews started by Benj Clews in 1999. Anyone can go to www.fwfr.com and submit their own reviews, the only stipulation being they must be four words long. Another example of “uncluttered media” lies in the six-word music reviews by writer/editor Paul Ford. A book entitled Not Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure was compiled by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, an interesting twist on memorialization.
As Michael Agger states in a blog entry on www.slate.com, “The appeal of brevity is that it will help us cope with the avalanche of music, movies, books, magazines, television shows and blogs.” Agger then quotes Sustin Wax, another www.lifehack.org writer, who “suggests that our moaning about information overload is misplaced: ‘What you need less of is input—all the crap that flows at you masquerading as information.”
Ahh, that sounds familiar. If we make a point to be brief, giving special attention to the length of our emails as suggested by several uncluttering experts, there will be less input, and thus, our lives will become less cluttered, making us happier and more efficient. iBi