Monday, July 16, 2007

How much of that email did you read?

Several years ago, I heard a statistic that the average person read on about a 5th grade level. The email system we used had an option to check the grade level of the words in an e-mail. By default, it was set to flag words over 7th grade level (I guess we thought we were smarter than average). You could highlight a word that was flagged and it would tell you the grade level of that word.

During that time, I began watching the way I sent emails. I intentionally did things to make them more readable. Short sentences, paragraphs with 2-3 sentences and lots of white space. When necessary, use of bold or (less often) italics to get attention. Oh and in case you hadn't noticed, lots of (parenthesis) to denote sub-thoughts.

I've been told by many people that the e-mails I send and documents I write are very good. This often came up when we were talking about other things, so I take the comments as true. I feel I have a special talent to be able to explain complex situations up and down the management food chain (at least when it's job related).

Today I was crafting an email. The note will surprise some of the folks as they weren't aware of some activities from over the weekend. So I had to explain a complex situation from the start and reassure them that all was under control. I was proud of the job I did and at the last minute separated a paragraph into two and bolded the last one (is bold a verb?). As I did so, I thought, these people probably won't read the whole email, best to get the info out quickly and tell them which parts to read.

So, here's my thought for the day, how much of any given email does the average reader read? I'm guessing around 50%, but I'd also guess it varies depended on the sender, the subject line and the length of the e-mail. You're more likely to read all of an email from someone you know and trust with a subject line that grabs your attention and if it's short.

Surely someone has done a study on this funded by our over-zealous congress.

As a side question, I wonder if the same applies to blogs???


Neil said...

Hey, I read it all!

Good points. The same thing definitely applies to blog posts and comments. When people get too wordy I move on.

jkaiseresquire said...

"So, here's my thought for the day, how much of any given email does the average reader read?"

I read the whole thing when it is from a person. Less than 25% when it is from a legitimate business. And none from spammers.

Ashley said...

At work I am well known for not reading emails.....Notice I didn't say "only reading part of emails"...I mean sometimes I don't read any of the email.

I think it is more dependent on my mood than the subject line or the writing in it - although these are important factors.